Anita Jones, Curator of Textiles
The incredible skill and significant time that people from various cultures devote to the production of special textiles is a continuing source of amazement to me. This superb furisode, a kimono intended for a Japanese bride to wear at her wedding reception, is an illustrative example.
The ground fabric is a woven silk damask-like weave (rinzu) with the swastika or sayagata pattern – an ancient Buddhist symbol of longevity – along with wild orchid (ran), chrysanthemum (kiku), and bamboo motifs. This elaborately woven ground is almost overlooked with the addition of colorful surface patterns. The most prominent of these, known as “scattered fans” (semmen-chirashi), is composed of diverse multicolored, floral, and geometric motifs adopted from traditional Japanese textile designs.
These designs are hand-painted using the yuzen-zome technique. The motifs were first drawn on the fabric in spiderwort juice – a fugitive or temporary blue dye. The yuzen artist then carefully covers the lines with a starch paste resist, sometimes on both sides of the fabric. Soybean extract (gojiru) was brushed over the fabric to stabilize both the paste and the dye which was then painted on with a brush. The resist prevented the colors from bleeding into one another. Next, the fabric was steamed to set the dyes and the resist paste was washed off. Afterward, gold and silver metallic paint would be added to complete some designs and to cover the white outlines left from the resist.
A secondary pattern “vertical seething with clouds” (Kumo-tatewaku), referring to the constant movement of clouds, was created by the application of silver and gold leaf to the surface of the silk. This same motif is also found on the robe’s red silk lining along the hem and on the edges of the lower half of the kimono opening.
After all the dyes and pigments were finished, embroidery was added in the form of multiple colored ribbons of silk floss that float across the open areas and weave through the slats of the fans forming tied bows on either side. Finally, metallic threads were couched down outlining and emphasizing the edges of motifs.
This kimono was the product of an organized workshop, with each process performed by a specialist. It probably took six months to complete. Considering that it would have been worn for only one occasion, the care and effort spent on this richly ornamented garment is phenomenal.
I would like to thank Japanese textile specialists Ann Marie Moeller and Ed Lagan for much of the information provided in this article.
BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.