A Spectacular Shibori Tenugui: Poetry in Shape Resist Dyeing

$90.00 USD

late nineteenth, early twentieth century
13" x 34", 33 cm x 86.25 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, selectively hand dip dyed indigo shibori--and it is old, it dates to the Meiji period.

It is special, too, for its utterly poetic portrayal of pine, bamboo and plum which are sparely placed and delicately (and expertly) rendered so much so that they appear to be a visual haiku or sorts.

These three motifs when shown together are knows as shochikubai. Shochikubai is a classic, auspicious motif.  The plum is the first bloom to burst forth from the winter's ice and is symbol of strength, the bamboo bends but does not break so it is a symbol of resilience, and the pine, of course conveys a wish for longevity.  

The shibori on this tenugui is so well done that it seems to suggest that it might have belonged to 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.

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 special one, rare for its expert shibori dying and for its delicate portrayal of an auspicious, traditional design motif..

Highly recommended.