A Shirakage Shibori Tenugui: Tortoiseshell Pattern

$85.00 USD

late nineteenth, early twentieth century
12 1/4" x 35 1/2", 31 cm x 90 cm

This is a tenugui or a traditional cotton hand towel that is ubiquitous in Japan.

This one is special because unlike most tenugui which are stencil dyed this one is dyed in beautifully-done shirakage shibori, a difficult-to-master technique which gives a blue-on-white effect.

A tenugui is a traditional cotton hand towel that is ubiquitous in Japan because of its many uses.  It can be used to mop sweat from a brow in summer; it can be worn on the head, kerchief-like, while working; it can be twisted and worn as a sweat band like sushi chefs do: there are endless ways to use a tenugui.

Sometimes these lengths of cotton are used by stores as a give away, sometimes as gifts at new year, other time for store promotions.  Sometimes tenugui are brought back from trips as souvenirs if they are imprinted with a specialized image specific to certain region or town.

No matter its origin or original purpose this is a very handsome one, rare for its expert shibori dying and for its artful design which is that of tortoiseshell (hexagons) that morph into a design made of three hexagons which suggests a pattern dedicated to Bishamon, a one of the seven popular Japanese gods.

The shibori on this tenugui is so well done--and this one is part of a group of variations that will be offered here over time--that it seems to suggest that the shop who offered or commissioned these might have been a shibori dyer, a yukata broker or some other trade that relates to cloth and shibori. 

This piece is almost assuredly from Narumi/Arimatsu, a booming and powerful center of shibori production and brokering.