Sunday, 5 January 2014

Primitive Textile Musings on a New Year.

 'There is something on the doorstep. I think Momo dragged it home from the mountains….It looks evil and foreboding…'

Those are just the words you want to hear while you are cooking dinner for guests. Ignoring them until the onions were caramelised for the vegetable soup it was time to investigate.

The guy next door is a hunter.  In the winter months he shoots wild boar and cleans them and tosses the stuff he doesn't eat off the side of the mountain. Snoopy was dragging home all sorts of bones and horrible stuff for years. Momo, being such a delicate corgi-fox princess, was above this sort of tough behaviour. (So we thought.) She had brought home a hoofed leg the other day and places it on my pillow as a present. Snoopy had done the exact same thing ten years ago. I froze the Snoopy gift-leg and am somehow comforted by her generosity every time I fill the ice cube tray and see it wrapped carefully in the freezer.

 Momo with her cloven-hoofed present she took back after realising I wasn't about to start gnawing on it.

It is cold. It is bare and primitive outside. The monkeys are hungry. Anneke and Hiro couldn't stop watching them scour the dried vines outside the kitchen window, salvaging a few puny berries. Furtively glancing around for competitors and getting their fur all burred. The windows ultimately started to fog up even from our bated breathing. Eventually the monkeys moved on.

The year is young. The monkeys young and old are younger versions of ourselves. (Auto-spell-check is killing me… 'monkeys hung and old…') They haven't evolved like the year before us surely will. Close to  kerosene heaters we are scratching around ourselves, each in their own way preparing for the year ahead. A PhD thesis being formulated, a future in a just-finished-but-too-cold-to-work-in pottery studio and  my own worries and tentative plans for the year. Everything is asleep and waiting for warmth.  

Anyway, the onions were caramelised and this lovely object was on the doorstep…as promised…evil and foreboding.

Anneke and I boldly decided we would scrape off the fat off the back and clean it up the following day. I contemplated how to turn it into a mask with some copper fittings etc. Placed on the outside sink counter for scraping the next day it disappeared over night. 


 Until Noor told us that she had witnessed the beagle from next door jumping up and trying to get it. 

Back to primitive musings….

At the Fuchu museum a few weeks back there was a Taiyo special edition magazine on,"The Power of Jomon". The Jomon people…

The Jōmon period (縄文時代 Jōmon jidai?) is the time in Prehistoric Japan from about 12,000 BC[1] and in some cases cited as early as 14,500 BC[2] to about 300 BC, when Japan was inhabited by a hunter-gatherer culture which reached a considerable degree of sedentism and cultural complexity.
The name "cord-marked" was first applied by the American scholar Edward S. Morse who discovered sherds of pottery in 1877 and subsequently translated intoJapanese as jōmon.[3] The pottery style characteristic of the first phases of Jōmon culture was decorated by impressing cords into the surface of wet clay. This pottery, dated to around 16,000 years ago, is perhaps the oldest in the world (pottery nearly as old has been found in southern China, the Russian Far East, and Korea[4]). The period was rich in tools and jewelry made from bone, stone, shell, and antler; pottery figurines and vessels; and lacquered wood.[5][6][7] The Jōmon is often compared to pre-Columbian cultures of Pacific Northwest North America because in both regions cultural complexity developed within a primarily hunting-gathering context (with limited use of horticulture).

 I have this wooden sushi container full of Jomon pottery from my old digs  on the table upstairs. No one believes they are real. 

Unless someone randomly buried them a meter under the ground in my indigo field it seems they are.

There were photographs and an article in the magazine about some nettle thread that had been artistically wound and painted with red-ochre sumac lacquer and formed into pieces of jewelry. Amazing.  On one pottery shard I dug up had a stick man throwing a spear at a boar. I can only presume they would have used the skins as clothing. 

My 50th birthday is two weeks away.  I moved to Japan on my 25th birthday. Half of my life spent in this foreign country. Where to aim the remaining (optimistically speaking) 25 years? 

This deep and dry cold weather lends itself to frigid musings on life and the origins of textiles.


  1. eeekks! it's a good thing you included the pottery part to
    counteract the furry adventure. the sumac dyeing is intriguing.
    i can so relate to having spent half of adult life in another country.

  2. dogs are, well, dogs. that "mask" is creepy and delightful. i love these words: red ochre sumac lacquer, and wonder about it. after using staghorn sumac so much in dyeing i'm very intrigued by this plant. years ago at a fair i had sumac "lemonade" and it was delicious. pre happy birthday!

  3. Maybe you are homesick for the Canadian westcoast!
    (It's WET cold here) Hope to see you back at Maiwa 2015. Really looking forward to reading about your
    work with madder this coming year. Spring is coming....

  4. Well, if someone thinks that life is boring in Fujino, he/she will have to think again!

  5. Momo brings home animal parts and you bring home ceramic parts. We all must be attracted to corresponding parts. Makoto noticed Jomon ceramic pieces right away and pointed them out to me while we were staying with you. He had been reading about Jomon period for months before we visited Fujino. He was facinated, I was pretty surprised to see them looking pretty fresh for being so old.