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Posts Tagged ‘Mashiko’

As a follow-up to my Provenance column on kasuri over at Cloth & Kind, I want to show more photos of one of the featured spaces, the apartment of a friend here in Tokyo who has an incredibly clear personal decorating vision. Eclecticism and constant change are the reigning monarchs of the design world, so every now and then it is nice to have a very different vision – in this case a specific and coherent viewpoint, a vintage Japanese lens so to speak – to compare with. Many people don’t have the rigor to be this consistent – I know I certainly don’t – but there is a peacefulness that comes with it.

I’ve shopped with and for this friend and I always know what will appeal to her. Authenticity and patina, along with a certain roughness of finish and a palette of browns, ochres, and greys, with variety picked out in texture. The photo below was meant to feature the homespun kasuri futon cover (purchased at Kawagoe), but it also highlights a very few pieces of an enormous collection of modern Japanese pottery, much of it bought up in Mashiko, the famous pottery village. Much to my chagrin, I didn’t think to photograph the insides of her cupboards – that may have to wait for some other post. Most everything else was accumulated at shrine sales around Tokyo and she is unabashed when I pick something up and say “this has your name on it!” She knows her own mind.

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Heading back out to the entry way to start the tour properly, the tone is set for the entire space as you walk in. Everything shows its age, from the vintage silkworm basket hanging on the wall, to the abacus and sake jug on the rustic cabinet.  And here we see the beginning of one of the motifs in this space – the juxtaposition of squares and rectangles with circles, which the owner uses over and over again to great effect.

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As I was there to photograph the kasuri futon cover, the rest of the photo shoot was a bit ad hoc, so excuse wires and everyday items that would normally be put away or out of sight.  The truth is, seeing spaces as they are really used is more authentic anyway.

The television wall has a great collection of Japanese baskets including a big old rectangular silkworm tray.  I continue to think big baskets are a great trick for TV walls – they balance the large dark expanse of the equipment while posing no heavy threat to it. The owner is an insatiable collector of baskets, second only perhaps to pottery – she cannot resist them – adoring their texture and lightness. The use of baskets throughout the apartment is another constant motif.

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A corner of the living room gives pride of place to a beat up old tansu and a beautiful still life of finely woven basket mounted with a single branch. The limited color palette, augmented only by bits of natural green and a little blue, with texture for interest, is yet a third motif in the space.

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Another vignette repeats the patterns, small cabinet, fine baskets and branches and a sweet bird print tucked into a silver leafed cherry wood frame.

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This arrangement on the kitchen counter has lots of my favorites, including a glass senbei canister, a vintage sieve, some old signage and more pottery.

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It’s not only in Japan that the owner is so consistent. Not at all surprising to discover that she has a historically accurate and incredibly well-preserved 1830s home in Connecticut. From the outside you would never guess that parts of the house are an addition as they worked to keep a natural roofline, the kind that develops with additions over the years. The interiors blend the old and the new by using antique flooring and antique beams salvaged from an old barn found elsewhere in Connecticut. The old part of the house has all the original wide board flooring, beams, and horse hair plaster walls. The house itself is filled with Americana of the period, antique cupboards, dry sinks, blanket chests, quilts, crocks, and yes – pottery – lots and lots of pottery, but in this case classic American redware and yellowware.

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Adore this winter photo but I am looking forward to seeing it this summer! And whenever it is that she moves back, I’m even more interested in seeing the dialogue between the old Japanese and American pieces. I think it will be a lively conversation.

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One of my favorite “so ancient and simple that it’s modern” Japanese motifs is ami or fish net pattern. I’ve been tracking blue and white porcelain pieces here at shrine sales and antique shops for years, like this beautiful sake cup washer and hire (like a small hibachi from a smoking set). The sake cup washer has a very linear version of the pattern, while the hire looks almost Middle Eastern in its curvilinear painting, reminding me of these floor tiles! The pattern is common, but rare at the same time, so I always notice it when I see a piece. Not an unexpected motif if you think about how much life in Japan revolves around fish!

Unlike the rounded pieces above, these rectangular dishes show the star-like pattern at the center of the nets and the larger of the dishes even has an open and loosely linked rendition, versus the tighter nets.

Here on this small dish the net is softly and irregularly painted.

Imagine my surprise when ami cropped up in a slightly different form at a recent ladies luncheon with the renowned Japanese food expert Elizabeth Andoh that focused on the art of mixing dishes and plating food.  Out came a rustic but elegant Mashiko pottery plate in the fish net pattern in a glossy copper and verdigris. She called the pattern ajiro, but I think that is actually more of a traditional herringbone style basket weave and that this too is ami.

Just a week or so later, I finally got to visit the Mashiko pottery festival myself, which I haven’t been to in years! I came across a few examples of that same style, perhaps even the same potter to my eye, including this huge spectacular vessel. From my lack of posts lately you can tell life has got me by the ankle and isn’t letting go, but I hope to write more about my experience there soon.

Shortly after that I came across this formal lacquer ware version from my friend Mizue Sasa’s shop Okura Oriental Art - haute couture fish net!

Fish net pattern can be found on much more than just dishes, whether stylized in sashiko embroidery as well as realistically patterned directly in textiles and art. There are a few very famous ukiyo-e featuring actual nets, but I quite like this one by Utagawa Yoshiiku, called  “A Parody of Goldfish with Actor’s Expressions.” It seems the public in the day would have recognized these fish faces for whom they were meant to represent. I quite like that the title is written against a background of fish net.

While I can do without the silly faces on those fish, all this talk (writing?) of fish and fish nets has got me thinking about another project I am working on, the 2013 ASIJ Gala Quilt. Using a background of vintage blue kasuri (the Japanese version of ikat) pieced in a neat but kinda boro style, we are planning on appliqueing a grouping of koi.

The koi will be varying shades of orange and white silk shibori (tie-dye). Here’s a first glimpse of a mock-up to whet your appetite.

We had been talking about some water pattern quilting but now I am thinking that perhaps we want to use the fish net motif, picked out in white quilting thread.  Just loving this idea! What say you Julie Fukuda and Kendra Morgenstern?

Related Posts:
After the Earthquake…Help Rebuild the Kilns at Mashiko
Guest Post…Visiting the Mashiko Pottery Festival
The ASIJ Quilt…Summer Breezes: Furin in the Rock Garden
Coming Full Circle…A History of the ASIJ Gala Quilt

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For my first ever guest post, Dalia Gold reports on a shopping excursion to the famous Japanese pottery town of Mashiko. The destruction of the kilns after the Great East Japan Earthquake was featured earlier on the blog here and updates on the situation here

The forecast called for and delivered clear, sunny skies for my first trip to the legendary Mashiko pottery festival. I’d been waiting almost a year for the day to arrive, having heard stories about rows upon rows of pottery stands.

Originating in 1966, the fair is now held twice a year – in the fall and spring – and draws approximately 150,000 people and 400,000 people, respectively. Last spring, the Great East Earthquake destroyed the ancient kilns used for generations to bake the clay works. Donations and support came from around the world to help rebuild the kilns and November 4, 2011 marked the second pottery fair after the devastation. More than 500 artisans displayed their work, including many from Mashiko and areas beyond, as well.

Much more information about the history of Mashiko pottery can be found at: www.mta.mashiko.tochigi.jp

I expected to be overwhelmed and had brought a small, wheelie suitcase, as I’d been advised, to store my purchases as I strolled. I had no particular agenda nor strategy for the expedition. I only knew that I didn’t want to leave thinking, “Why didn’t I buy that when I had the chance?”

The vendors at the beginning of the fair had mostly functional, primitive pieces. I bought these small bowls, finished in Nuka White (rice husk ash) glaze and paired them with these funky, unfinished green chargers.

As I moved deeper into the stalls, I found myself drawn to pieces featuring spouts, irregular shapes and almost anything white.

I think these oval pieces may be intended for ikebana, but I bought one to use as an everyday fruit plate.


Loved the simplicity of, and so purchased, both of these, which look great with the fruit bowl.

Though I didn’t buy one, I love the utilitarian grater featured in these spouted works.

As with so many things I’ve seen in Japan, the elegant simplicity of some displays rivaled the artistry of some of the goods being sold.

Other collections for sale besides pottery included glass, incense and shoes.

Given the huge piles of rubble within, I think these warehouses may be the sites of some of the kilns which were destroyed, although they had certainly been cleaned up from last spring,

After exhausting myself among the stalls, I finally arrived at the main street, where many finer pieces of art were for sale. The glaze on this vase looks as if there are layers of mosaic tiles beneath the smooth surface. The photo doesn’t do justice to the gorgeous tones of blue, grey and green held within.

My wheelie bag was full, and I had a couple of shopping bags draped over my arms as I returned to the parking lot before heading home. I’d been true to aim – not to leave any beloveds behind – and yet, I already knew I would need to return next year.

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