Sunday, 1 July 2012

Boro Cloth at Japanese Antique Market and Burkina Faso Calls

Mariama, my friend from France / Burkina Faso came out for a visit this weekend and her spirit, intelligence and sense of adventure had my head spinning. And heart aching and head spinning faster. Vital people vitalize. (I am on fire this evening from her inner lightening.) She would like me to start a silk farming development project in a village in Burkina Faso, a land locked west African country. Ahhhhhh it was painful to discuss and think of the possibilities of doing development work again.  But no. No. No. No. Not right now. No NO nO...and

I have a few too may projects on the burner as it is. I placated her enthusiasm with a mulberry sapling present that is on the airplane somewhere between Japan and Africa right now.  It will be planted and if there is to be some future silk project it will be the mama of the mulberry fields! It woke up this morning in its' pot outside my bathroom window on a rainy season sleepy day in Japan and never dreamed it would be on its' way to West Africa via Paris by the end of the day. Oh la la.

But first, the little sapling made a few hour stop at one of life's great pleasures.

A Sunday morning antique market.

My goal was to find Edo period large linen pieces to stencil dye large Buddhist images on for an exhibition in Europe next year.  There were only a few. One had already been deceivingly dipped in persimmon tannin to make it look older. (This will make it impossible to dye with indigo.) Another was beautiful, but had a $500 US (40 000 yen) price on it. The stall keeper claimed it was linden cloth and thus the exorbitant price. There was not a chance it was linden but it was useless to even mention it.  Kamei san bought some skeins of 'linen' which were without a doubt actually silk. Hmmmm.  I suppose this is typical in antique markets around the world. The stall keepers are undoubtedly well versed in their goods but do make mistakes. Compared to my favorite sleepy Swiss, 'Broken Haus alt stuff kauf' outings last year, Japan was alive and vibrant today.

It was rare and refreshing to have every cog and synapse in my head in action while moving around the labyrinth of shops on the grounds of an ancient Shinto shrine. The cobwebs had already been cleared out by Mariama's enthusiasm and hypnotic let's-just-do-it seduction  for a silk revival project in the sub Saharan savana on the train ride to the market.

 What a beautiful day full of life and the potential of life. But 'no' to Africa for a few years at least. No. No. No. (And Tohei the potter is begging me to go together and watch the woman make those huge pots of clay in  courtyards of their clay houses and watch as the village woman bring all their pots together and pile them up and cover them in branches and burn them in an opening outside the village gates with the African skies singing Paul Simon songs to us. "Homeless we are homeless the moonlight rising on a midnight lake. Somebody says...."

The priority is to fill life here with more Japanese textiles and history and techniques. And finish the carpentry work on the house and get the yard as close to Eden as possible. And then, only then head off again to adventures abroad.

Here are Mariama and I outside the Shinto gate of the shrine / market with a few of our bags of 'finds'. There were a few more at our feet. The Mulberry Mama-to-be-in-Africa is getting a final caress from me as it sat smiling in Mariama's backpack.

I bought a 14 meter long hand woven roll of Japanese linen. It is 50 centimeters wide and would have been used as summer kimono material for a sumo wrestler from the 1950's. I've boiled it and pre-soya bean protein mordanted it already. When I finish blogging I'll iron it and start stencil dying it with some wonderful old katazome stencils I found at the market. Does life get any better than this?   No NO nO Noooooo.

It is still possible to find these sashiko indigo pieces but they go for $400 US for 70 centimeters. Still a great bargain but not cheap at all.

My head and heart were filled with fond memories of working in north Laos 7 years ago.


  1. i can feel your excitement, but please don't leave japan until i go visit you :)

    1. Hi Neki, No, I will be here forever. I wouldn't mind a few months in another country each year. I'll be here. Look forward to meeting you and soaking up some of your good sense and taste!

  2. Wherever you go I go, oh Sensei...need an assistant?

    1. Yes! I'll hand you a coconut to bonk me on the head every time I come up with a crazy idea like moving to Burkina Faso!

  3. Oh how I wish we had been to an antique market. Ah, maybe next time. Is there a competition for that assistant's position?

    1. I was thinking of you all the time. The antique market is really the place to find what you want. The Ogikubo store was great but lacks the adventure and feeling of discovery. I could use a few assistants so you have the job!