Monthly Archives: December 2012

Glass Fishing Floats for the Holidays

Sorry to be so MIA, but I have been constantly in motion for the last month – both physically and geographically, but also emotionally, quite frenetically. Not quite ready to talk about any of that yet, but it, along with jet lag and poor internet access, has led to an inability to get posts out in a timely manner. It hasn’t helped that we landed at JFK the morning of the Newtown massacre and that subsequently left me utterly too disheartened to write.

Recent posts on ami, the Japanese fish net pattern, and even a photo in my last post of a great glass fishing float perched on an itomaki silk spool, reminded me that I had an unfinished post on one of my most popular topics still in the hopper. I realized I had a lot of images that pertained to the holidays, so what better way to add a little cheer than some vintage Japanese glass fishing floats for Christmas?

Small floats look wonderful lined up along a windowsill to catch the light, highlighting the variations in color and form.

NYTimes floats in kitchen

The sun streaming through the colors is magical.

fishing floats senbei canisters wi

Look at how it lights up this pair of rare amber ones I recently found.

amber floats

Bottle and float pairings are always perfect and the glass was designed to be exposed to the elements, so catching the sun’s rays outside is another great way to display them.

floats and wine jug via dirty deets

Colorwise, vintage ball jars make great companions.

floats and ball jars via scambledpreservedfriedcured

Here they have been grouped to great effect for a gorgeous holiday display!

fishing floats christmas

I know this is actually the powder room mirror in this photo, but doesn’t it look just like a sparkly silver modern wreath?

Small floats were designed to be strung together in their nets for use.

Seeing these working photos makes me think they would make great garlands on a tree or strung in front of a fireplace.

As ornaments anyone? Amazing photo, no??

hanging fishing floats

Of course it turns out there are a number of great DIY tutorials on how to turn simple glass Christmas ornaments into ones that look like floats, from this one at Sand and Sisal

Glass Float Ornaments (1024x739)[4]

…to this one over at Matsutake.

home made float ornaments

Can’t resist including this photo that has been circling the internet all month – a fairly “alternative” tree in a gorgeous glass bottle!

christmas tree in glass jug

As for upcoming parties and hostess gifts, if you are in a float mood, how about bringing your wine in a bottle net from Alder & Co. They’re even made in Japan and knotted in the traditional manner!

Alder and co net bottle carrier

Obviously I have tons of older glass fishing float posts – just click the glass category on the right if you’d like to read them!

Have the Merriest Christmas and a wonderful New Year! I’m headed to (hopefully) sunny warm Florida, where there are always great antiques and design shops to report on, so you may as yet be hearing from me before 2012 is out.

Image credits: 1. The New York Times, photo credit: Bruce Buck, 2-3. me, 4. via The Dirty Deets, 5. via Scrambled Preserved Fried Cured, 6. via Patina White, 7. Coastal Living, 8-10. from my files, no credits available, 11. Sand and Sisal, 12. Matsutake, 13. via Remodelista, 14. via Alder & Co.

Women’s Work…Itomaki With the Silk on Them

“Female workers in cotton spinning mills, silk reeling plants, cotton and silk weaving factories and sheds formed a large and vital part of the Meiji industrial labor force. In 1882, textile plants employed about three-quarters of all factory employees in Japan. In 1909 female workers, mostly in textiles, made up 62 percent of the Japanese factory labor force. This pattern continued for many years — as late as 1930 the majority of Japanese factory workers were women……”

— E. Patricia Tsurumi; Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, Vol. 18, 1986

thread spool silk reel itomaki

Itomaki, antique Japanese silk reel bobbins or thread spools are a common enough sight around Japan. You can be sure some dealer at a shrine sale will have empty ones lying around in a basket…


…or even stacked neatly on a bamboo pole.


The medium size 4 spoke ones are the easiest to come by, while the more unusual large and small sizes less so. Occasionally you can find a big 6 spoke spool, like the one here, or even a folding one, like this one below.

collapsible itomaki

Silk production was a widespread cottage industry in Japan throughout the Edo period and many traditional Japanese farmhouses were designed with special attic rooms for raising and harvesting silkworms. With the advent of the Meiji-era, silk production became industrialized, with women being the main workers. Factory conditions in Japan were awful, much like those during the Industrial Revolution in the West. Girls were forced to work long hours in dangerous conditions in factories and dormitories surrounded by fences. Photographs inside the heavily fenced workplaces were hard to come by, but this c.1915-23 silver print photograph by T. Enami shows the thread being drawn from the cocoons and spun.


Other Enami photos from the same period show independent cottage workers spinning their silk.


I love this one of a little girl working outside.

the little silk winder

What is unusual nowadays is to find them with vintage kimono silks still on them, like I did recently.  I found a large grouping of medium size reels (and one small one) with gorgeous peacock colors in great condition.


The silken threads are luminescent and the unusual color combinations so typically Japanese.


I wasn’t the only one to get some – a good friend took a few too. They are great at pulling colors out of artwork and textiles elsewhere in the room. Both of us have placed ours on altar tables, although I am not sure I have room to keep them there.


Empty itomaki make fantastic stands for porcelain or plants…

Boston fern and Ballard Designs bench

…or even Japanese fishing floats. This one helps to display the lovely pontil and mark on this float.

glass float on itomaki

See why I said it is all too crowded?


Readers, I’d love to see how you use your itomaki. Please post photos on my Facebook page!

These and more great Meiji period photographs of Japan by T. Enami can be found on Okinawa Soba’s Flickr photostream.

Related Posts:
Finding the Thread…Between Boston Ferns and Japanese Spools
Woven Wall Art…Japanese Silk Worm Trays, Winnowers and American Tobacco Baskets
En Masse…Iron Teapots, Vincente Wolf and the Art of Grouped Displays

An Unexpected Find…Japanese Herbiers

spare pale botanicals

Finding fabulous non-Japanese items, particularly French ones, seems to be a recent theme with me.  So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across these amazing herbiers (pressed and labeled botanicals) recently at a tiny Japanese antique store miles and miles away from Tokyo. Used as scientific tools in many countries for hundreds of years, they are quintessentially French to my mind, although I have also seen many Scandinavian examples. So my surprise continued when I looked closely and discovered that these are actually Japanese, from 1939!

herbiers group

I only bought 12 of them, thinking it a good number that works either 3×4 or 4×3…

herbiers 3x4

…or even 2 rows of 6, either horizontal or vertical.

herbiers 2x6

I picked out some of my favorites from the three binders, but I am thinking that perhaps I need to go back and buy them all. They can look amazing in a huge massed display.

huge displey of herbiers against dark paint

Note how different they look with dark frames against colored walls.

herbiers with black frames against blue

Some, like the oxalis, I can identify by sight, while others will need translation. The paper is lightly foxed, but I think the patina only adds to their charm. I can’t resist showing them each in close-up – how many can you identify?

IMG_0486 IMG_0487 IMG_0489 IMG_0490 IMG_0491 IMG_0492 IMG_0493 IMG_0494 IMG_0495 IMG_0496 IMG_0497 IMG_0498

Many views of pressed botanicals can be found in the homes of great bloggers, from Brooke

Brooke Gianetti master bath herbiers

…to Joan.

herbiers joan

Hugely trendy in decor right now, I already had a Pinterest page devoted to them with some of my favorite images and different ways to frame them.

MSL banquette Kime herbiers

botanicals over desk

herbiers plus creamware

Take a look here for more images and the photo credits. I’ll let you know if I go back and get them all!

Related Posts:
Tussle at the Antique Jamboree…or the Never Wait Rule

More Selective Perception or Just Coincidence? Ami Pattern Everywhere at Kawagoe Shrine Sale

I know I have written about selective perception here before, but I had a major case of it just a few days ago at the Kawagoe shrine sale. In 8+ years here in Tokyo I have only see a few handfuls of ami or fish pattern pieces that I wrote about the other day, but somehow everywhere I turned last Wednesday I came across another one.  These small inban (Japanese transferware) dishes had an intricate and very finely patterned net, complete with cute fish swimming around.

ami fish net inban

This lacquer tray had cranes flying by, probably looking for fish to eat.

lacquer cranes fish net ami

And I found a few small dishes like this one with beautiful hand painted nets.

small fish net ami dish

Coincidence? Fate? Luck? Or just selective perception?

Related Post:
Caught in a Net…Ami Pattern on Porcelain and More
Selective Perception…Maekake at the Heiwajima Antiques Fair and Kawagoe Shrine Sale

Tokyo Jinja

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