A Magnificent Boro Length: Reversible, Tsutsugaki, Narumi Kongata
ca. late nineteenth century
78" x 12 1/2", 198 cm x 31.5 cm
Pay special attention to this marvelous, boro length--and if you can, peruse all the accompanying detail photos as this piece is equally interesting and artful on both of its sides, and each side is fascinating in a different way.
This long, indigo dyed boro piece is hand stitched from two lengths of tsutsugaki dyed cloth, that is, cloth that has been resist dyed using a freehand drawing/resist method. On one side of this boro cloth you can see all the images that were hand resisted by the artisan who made it, and the images are auspicious.
On the top half of this piece, we see a crane and a tortoise flanking a bouquet of sytlized pine and plum. Pine, plum, and a glimpse of bamboo can be seen at the very bottom of the piece. All these images are meaningful: crane=long life and conjugal fidelity. Tortoise=long life. Pine and plum are two of the three "winter friends": pine, plum, bamboo. Together known as shochikubai, these three images are a cocktail of wish conveyance: pine = marital happiness as its needles fall in pairs. It also asks for long life. Bamboo is resilience: it bends but does not break. Plum is courage as its the first blossom to burst through the ice in winter or early spring.
And the reverse of this tsutsugaki boro piece is magnificent with patches and mending--16 patches in all. And one of them, on the top of the length, is the famous Narumi kongata cloth, a complex stencil resist dyed cotton that mimics shibori. Narumi kongata was a luxury cloth in old Japan as its dyeing technique was difficult and required a great deal of time and skill. Today, fragments of Narumi kongata are still some of the costliest katazome cloth to be found.
This is a remarkably good length of old boro cloth, and one that is rich in symbolism, age and beauty.