A Beautifully Unfinished Pieced Silk Altar Cloth: Repurposed Paper Backing
62″ x 33″, 157.5 cm x 84 cm
This is an unfinished, piece-constructed silk cloth that was destined for use as an altar cloth or uchishiki, at a Buddhist temple. The silks, all chemical dyed, most of them machine-made, are freely yet intricately pieced together.
This cloth is entirely hand stitched as will be seen very clearly when the back is seen as it is based on paper squares. But first a bit about pieced cloth in Buddhist textiles.
In Japan there was a tradition of patrons donating fancy silks to temples, often the silks were taken from elaborate kimono. These silks would be used to create ecclesiastical cloth of the type seen here.
To achieve the intricate piecing for each of the sixty squares which compose this piece, the silk fragments were hand stitched to pieces of recycled paper, which can be seen in the accompanying detail photos.
The advantage for us that this piece is unfinished is that it allows us to see the back, which is lovely. Eventually this cloth would have been backed, probably in cotton, and likely there would have been a hand written inscription on the blank cotton backing. The inscription would have noted the date. It would have possibly have mentioned the occasion for which this cloth was made, and, even, it may have listed the names of the donors of the silks.
A really marvelous, somewhat delicate piece, which shows a great deal of handwork and dedication.