Subject: Kintsugi (and Kimono)
Border: Ginkgo leaves
Copper/Sulphate/Salt etching on aluminum plate
こんにちは[ kon'nichiwa ] Hello
Kintsugi (also called the “golden repair”) is the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with powered gold and lacquer. It is philosophical as well as practical, treating the break and repair as part of the history of the bowl, not something to hide or disguise. I am completely enthralled by this concept. It is both aesthetic and liberating. The idea of Kintsugi allowed me not only to strive for excellence in my creation of these prints, but also to embrace some of the plate marks or ink variations that might have otherwise challenged and discouraged me.
The story of Kintsugi goes back to the 15th century, when shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa’s broken bowl was repaired with unsightly staples, much to his dislike. Ashikaga recruited craftsmen to come up with an alternative remedy, and the art of using gold lacquer to repair a break was conceived. This made the bowl even more precious. Kintsugi is a blend of art, practicality, and philosophy.
Image: The woman holding the "kintsugi" bowl in this etching is wearing a traditional kimono, the national dress of Japan.
What I loved about doing this project was either revisiting (virtually) places I had been to and people I’d met and reintroducing them to the world, or learning about so many new, interesting people and places, sometimes dismissing previously held misconceptions and replacing them with a new-found appreciations of traditional folk culture, costumes, customs and clothing. I learned that the kimono, for example, is not the wrap-around robe-style garment I had imaged, but rather has several important components (anywhere from five to 10 parts), but perhaps you knew that. I have tried to accurately picture some of them here in this etching. The Obi, for example, is the decorative and practical sash or belt that covers a thin ribbon called a koshihimo and gives structure to the attire.
Originally kimono simply meant clothing. The current meaning and particular style of dress, worn by both men and women, dates to the Heian period (794-1192), when the new ‘straight-line-cut” method made it possible to make the unisex garment know as a Kosade, without regard to the wearer’s size or shape. And if layered, it could be worn in all types weather. As with any fashion style, kimonos have changed over the years. During the Kamakura period (1192-1338) and the Muromachi period (1338-1573), there tended to be colorful combinations. By the Edo period (1603-1868), each samurai and his followers wore a different color (like a clan ID). During the 17th century, there was a ban on displays of luxury, so elaborate embroidery decorations were mostly prohibited. During the Meiji period (1868-1912), the term kimono was applied to the Kosade, but they were almost abandoned as rulers encouraged Western wear. Today, kimonos are worn chiefly for special occasions, rituals and ceremonies. Scholar Naomi Nobel Richard writes that Japanese Kimono patterns contained cultural symbolism, rather like a Western tapestry. The cherry blossom pattern pictured would have been appropriate for a woman’s kimono and signifies, according to Richard “mortal feminine beauty.” (JSTOR Daily)
There are (or have been) several different methods of applying the patterns to kimonos.
- The Yuzen- dye-resistant fabric technique often applied to kimonos is one that allows the practical to blend with the beautiful. Birds, flowers and human figures were common designs, dating back to 14th century and evolving from single color to multicolor designs. Rice paste was used to outline the design. Then the fabric was dipped into dye . Other parts are hand painted with a brush or more rice paste added. Finally, the paste is removed with an iron (like batik).
- Another dying technique called Tsujigahana (also extremely time-consuming) used in the Muromachi period was revived by Itchiku Kubota (1917-2003), who created a museum dedicated to preserving and exhibiting the process and the resulting artful products. (https://thekubotacollection.com/museum)
- Nishinjin Ori (or Kyoto Silk Brocade) is an important weaving technique also associated with the beautiful Kimono patterns. In this time-consuming and labor-intensive method, the silk threads are dyed before weaving.
Border: I chose to use ginkgo leaves for the border, as it is a symbol of peace and hope and often associated with Japan. In fact, it is the official symbol of Tokyo, selected in part because the leaf shape resembles the letter T. It has been designated the official metropolitan tree for the Tokyo region and is found along the streets, as well as in parks and temples. It is also the symbol of the Urasenke School of Tea (One of three main traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony rituals.)
(I've been an admirer of the distinctive Gingko leaves for some time. I've attached one of my Asian Brush Paintings at the bottom. )
References and Links:
( Note: I do not endorse or mean to promote any of these sites.)
·Green, Cynthia. The Surprising History of the Kimono. JSTOR Daily. 8/12/2017
· Japan Experience. Ginkgo Trees. 11/8/2018.
· Mantovani, Andrea. Kintsugi And The Art Of Repair: life is what makes us. 9/19/2019.
· Richard, Naomi Noble. “Nō Motifs in the Decoration of a Mid-Edo Period Kosode.” Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 25, 1990, pp. 175–183. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1512899. Accessed 8 Feb. 2021.
· Richman-Abdou, Kelly. Kintsugi: The Centuries-Old Art of Repairing Broken Pottery with Gold. My Modern Met. 5/9/2019
· Victoria and Albert Museum Collection