nankeen

Great.ly…Connecting the Dots for Makers & Tastemakers

great.ly front page

So in addition to a brand new blog design, this week holds some other big news about an exciting new project I am involved in. Today is launch day for Great.ly, a brand new e-commerce site designed to put tastemakers together with makers and create a platform for them to market and sell work. As my long time readers know, one of my missions has always been to showcase and support artists and artisans and their creations so I am so excited to be one of the initial 50 tastemakers on the new Great.ly site. I have been busy curating my online boutiques which you can get to by clicking this link or using the Great.ly button on the side bar. You’ll find work from familiar faces as well as new ones.

No surprise at all to see George of papergluebamboo there. As I hinted in my last post, she has been busy creating new colorways and patterns for her modern ikkanbari and Japanese shopping baskets to sell on Great.ly. From bright yellow lucky gourds…

ikkanbari papergluebamboo yellow gourd tray

…to absolutely on trend African motifs

African pods papergluebamboo ikkanbari

…to ume (plum blossom) and ichimatsu (checks) in bright new colors on Tsukiji market shopping baskets, her unique line of homewares and carryalls is spectacular. To read more about her modern take on this ancient craft, take a look here and here. Remember, every piece is one of a kind, so shop the boutique here early!

papergluebamboo ume shopping baskets

Another long time Tokyo Jinja favorite is the gorgeous handmade textiles of LuRu Home based out of Shanghai, China. Liza and Claire are working with modern versions of nankeen, a dense hand-woven cotton fabric which has been stencilled and dyed in an indigo bath. With their beautiful products, all made from the custom hand dyed fabric in updated versions of traditional Chinese patterns, they are taking up the banner of preservation of this ancient form of craft, while innovating at the same time.

LuRU Home indigo pillows
luru slideshow_8

Their blue and white textiles bring a sense of cool to my very hot – both literally and colorfully – backyard here in Doha. They also play very well with pillows in other colors and textures. Be sure to click here to read their full story and see the pillows in action and here to shop the boutique.

Luru Home pillows

One of the most exciting aspects of Great.ly for me is getting to know new makers with interests and aesthetics that align with my own. Link Collective produces contemporary furoshiki (Japanese wrapping cloths) through a network of artists and designers from around the world. They “aim to cross cultures and generations by creating beautiful and functional products, merging international design with traditional Japanese production methods.” Their modern furoshiki with whimsical names such as Mountain Blossom or The Hida Express can be used for their traditional wrapping purpose, be worn as a scarf…

FUROSHIKI

…or be converted to a cross body bag with their ingenious strap. Seems like a ‘must have’ item for a good textile junkie, creating the possibility of a purse from any piece of cloth.

DOTS FUROSHIKI BAG (BLACK) & BLACK LEATHER CARRY STRAP SET link

Their furoshiki are all made in Fujisawa, Japan, hand-printed and sewn by a family owned business with over 50 years experience in furoshiki production. Although Japan’s craftsmen often spend a lifetime perfecting their artistry, much of that skill and knowledge is being lost as today’s mass production, cost cutting and on-demand culture drives ever more business decisions. Invaluable knowhow is disappearing as tools are put down, and the last small factories and workshops die out. Like LuRu Home in China, they are playing a part in keeping these crafts alive by showing what can be achieved when creativity and craftsmanship come together.

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For toting your heavier items, I am loving the work of the Tacoma, Washington-based duo Jacqui and Scott of Year Round Co. They hand make every bag themselves, from cutting each piece of fabric, to designing and screen printing it, then sewing and applying all the leather and hardware in their home studio. For a glimpse into their workshop this great video really demonstrates the artisanal quality of their products. Their collection is inspired by stormy seas, mossy rocks, and earthy travels.

Year Round Co

And as you all know from my past ten years of deep involvement with hanga, modern Japanese prints, I have long been a champion of works on paperWorks on paper, about paper, using paper, are some of the most affordable and charming artwork to be had. I am just beginning to explore some of the talent on Great.ly, so be sure to keep watch on this boutique as I add items in the coming weeks.

art collage

In clockwise order: Gretchen Kelly Rosy Mist on the Hudson, watercolor, Shelley Kommers Blue Diamonds, Print, Candy Le Sueur Silver Flower, monotype, Shelly Kommers Sparrow, mixed media collage

To quote one of the new artists I am just getting to know, Shelley Kommers, “I am always on the lookout for beauty, and I find it everywhere: in the decayed, the imperfect, and the ironic; in the small, tucked away places no one else looks.” I’d like to adopt that as my personal mantra.

So come on over and check it out. Just click here and start exploring. There are many other makers and categories I don’t have room to mention here. I think you’ll like what you find. To be honest, there are still quite a few kinks to work out, so please be patient and let me know if you are having any trouble making a purchase. Be sure to keep coming back as I will be adding to my boutiques regularly.
And if you are a maker or know someone else who is, looking for an outlet to sell and show your work, please contact me, either by leaving a comment on the post or via email at jacquelinewein[at]yahoo.com. Maybe Great.ly and I are just what you are looking for!

 

LuRu Home…Keeping the Folk Art of Chinese Nankeen Alive And a Giveaway!

With the development of economy and progress of industrialization, more and more machine-made cloth has been taking the place of calico, home-made and hand-imprinted and dyed in the country. Therefore, blue calico, as a work of folk art, has been gradually losing its practical value.

Indigo Textiles: Technique and History, Gosta Sandberg

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What do you see in this photo? Japanese yukata (cotton summer kimono) hanging on a line perhaps? It wouldn’t be an unreasonable guess based on the color and pattern, especially if you were just looking at the rolls of yukata fabric in Amy Katoh’s Blue & White store, like I was the other day. Hand-dying is a dying art everywhere, and we are lucky when people like Amy step up to help keep it alive.

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But the answer to my question above is actually not Japanese at all – it is Chinese nankeen, stencilled and dyed in an indigo bath. Originally, the word nankeen was used to indicate the very dense and unrefined hand-woven cotton fabric itself, but over time has come to be used interchangeably with its patterned and colored counterpart. Often referred to as blue calico, it was the main component of peasant clothing in China for centuries and in its plain form came to be an important export. A staple of British clothing from the late 18th century onwards, any Jane Austen fans among my readers will recognize it as a common fabric used for half boots worn for walking, as well as for mens breeches and pantaloons – the modern-day equivalent of chinos. Even its signature pale yellow color is often mentioned.

Nankeen_Trousersournal des Dames et des Modes, 1814

Ironically, while the upper classes in Europe were wearing nankeen, in China it was the fabric of the rice farmers, who used it for warm padded winter clothing. In Indigo Textiles: Technique and History, Gosta Sandberg writes “The jacket of the Chinese rice-farmer has been coloured with indigo since time immemorial. The reason for this is said to be that cloth dyed with indigo is many times stronger than undyed cloth and that it keeps insects and snakes at a distance, which is a considerable advantage for those working in open fields.” I don’t know if that is actually true, but it is consistent with work clothes in many cultures around the world, including our very own Levi’s.

Enter into our story – and there is nothing I like better than a good old-fashioned expat tale – Claire Russo and Liza Serratore, the founders and designers of LuRu Home, a new-ish textile based home design company working with modern versions of nankeen, based out of Shanghai. Selling pillows, napkins, place mats, tea towels and bags, all made from the custom hand dyed fabric in their versions of traditional Chinese patterns, it is good to see others taking up the banner of preservation, while innovating at the same time.

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Liza and Claire had been friends since high school and kept in touch, planning to go abroad for work in response to the poor economy in the United States. After a few twists and turns, both ended up in Shanghai. One day they came across bits of old blue and white Chinese fabrics that they found in a tiny shop at end of long alley way – one of those magical moments that if we are lucky, we stumble across a version of, sometime in our own lives. The store was jam-packed with textiles, many sun bleached around the edges, and they came home with a few individual meters, recent but vintage.  Their original impetus was to make things for their own apartment, and then for gifts, and from there the demand began to grow. They found they had passion for the fabric and as they investigated the printing process, a desire to rejuvenate the industry and bring patronage back to the artist.

Fabric Hanging in Yard

The technique for making nankeen is a rice paste stencil resist technique almost identical to that of Japanese katazome. Just like the two countries currently arguing over the Senkaku Islands, they also argue over whose technique it was first. Frankly, I think it truly originates elsewhere in Asia, but I am not about to enter the scrum.

 Antique Chinese nankeen…

Antique table cloth patchAntique Nankeen

Does it look familiar? Antique Japanese katazome.

katazome

Both techniques use a paste glue to cover the open patterned area of a stencil, keeping it from absorbing the dye. In Japanese these stencils are called katagami – and I have written about them as decorative devices as well as a functional ones before. The Chinese nankeen artists do all their screen cutting by hand using simple craft paper that has been oiled. I can’t help but hear their Japanese counterparts whispering in my ear “They just use plain craft paper?” and the Chinese reply being “Why do they bother glueing all those layers of washi paper together with persimmon extract? Boy, that is a laborious waste of time!” While the Japanese use rice paste, the Chinese use soybean and lime paste mixed with water.

Paper Screen : Paste on Fabric

The base cotton is no longer hand loomed, but it is still very size limited based on the traditionally sized dying vats. It is also quite difficult to work with screens beyond a certain length so the largest screen possible is 32 inches and the rolls of fabric are 12 meters long. This automatically insures that all LuRu Home’s pieces are small batch made and variations are part and parcel of the product, depending upon the whims of the dyer and even the weather for drying.

Nankeen dye dipping

The fabric is finished by using frosting-style knives to scrape away the paste after printing and then the fabric is put through a wash cycle with no soap and dried.

Scraping the paste post-dye

Their patterns have been inspired by historical patterns in An Overall Collection of China Blue Calico Vein Patterns compiled by Wu Yuan Xi, although not everything in the book is a traditional pattern (zebra anyone?). While Claire and Liza want to starting designing their own prints, the nankeen artisans will have none of it until the women build up more guanxi (relationship currency).

Wu Yuanxin 11cropWu Yuanxin 8crop

They have been extrapolating and changing the old prints and ironically that has helped them build guanxi as it shows their respect and appreciation for the process. A perfect example is the Flower pattern, which was too small and tight as it appeared originally. They enlarged the size and added white space to up its graphic punch. So for now, they are going to continue playing with tradition and plan to introduce a new pattern every season, which is twice a year, by adding one and pulling one, keeping 6-7 prints available at all times.

Flower Prints

Their gorgeous website shows all their products and they also have a lovely lookbook with great styled shots. This outdoor view, also shown above previously, is my favorite.

Table Setting 2

I’m dying for a few of the adorable tea towels, pun untended! They make great gifts too.

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So now for the fun part! Liza ad Claire have generously offered one 13 x 22 lumbar pillow (insert included!) in one of their four most popular patterns On The Fence, Babyteeth, Dot Dot Dot and Flower – the giveaway winner’s choice. All you need to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment below. If you like LuRu Home on Facebook, I will enter you in the giveaway a second time, doubling your chance to win. They can ship to the winner anywhere in the world as they have stock in both the USA and China. The giveaway closes Monday night at 12 EST. I am crushed, of course, that I can’t enter myself!

on the fence pillowbabyteeth pillow

dot dot dot pillowflower pillow

Their pillows look great styled with other indigo and blues, as seen here at Nicky Kehoe

luru at Nicky Kehoe

…as well as with an assortment of other colors, like here at Black & Spiro.

luru at Black & Spiro

Although record prices are being set for fine antique at auctions by wealthy Chinese looking to repatriate lost treasures, the locals LuRu works with are a bit bewildered by the women’s’ fascination with nankeen. Anything folk art based is undesirable these days in China. Louis Vuitton or (even Luois Vitton) is what is hot. But Claire and Liza have stiff competition from other buyers in procuring their fabric. From whom, you may ask? Can you guess?

The Japanese!

Image credits: All images credited to LuRu Home or the publications listed with the exception of #2 (me) and the 19th century fashion plates from Lady’s Repository Museum.

Tokyo Jinja

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