Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mottainai: The Fabric of Life

Recently, I had the great pleasure of seeing "Mottainai: The Fabric of Life" at the Japanese Garden in Portland. This exhibition of antique Japanese folk textiles from the Meiji period (1868-1912) is comprised of selections from the private collections of Stephen Szczepanek of Sri in Brooklyn, and Kei Kawasaki of Gallery Kei in Kyoto.

The exhibition demonstrates the remarkable ability of the Japanese to not only make do with the very little they had, but to make art with it. Here are a bunch of pictures from the exhibition. Don't miss the detail shots, and more info at the end. Click pictures to enlarge.

These garments are turned inside-out to show the remarkably pieced linings.

This garment was made of Kudzu, a naturally water-repellent material 

Indigo materials were common because of the native indigo plants

Not a scrap was wasted. 

These objects were absolutely fascinating, and reminded me very much of the denim work clothes quilts from Gee's Bend. Sadly, there is only one day remaining in the exhibition. Tomorrow (Sunday, November 27th, 2011) is the last day. If you're anywhere in the vicinity, just get there. It's worth it! For more info, click here.


  1. Thanks for sharing the photos...I worked in Japan for a few months and the company organized an instructor to give me lessons in Japanese needlework. This brought back memories...

  2. I love indigos and these photos are wonderful to see all the shades. Love the worn look of everything.

  3. I, too, love the look of a well-worn indigo!

    Yankee - I didn't know you'd spent time in Japan. Lucky you!

  4. What a fabulous collection. Love these! Thanks for sharing : )

  5. These are wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

  6. What an interesting exhibit. Thank you for taking us there. I have two daughters living in Portland but have never visited that place. It would be wonderful to learn the stories behind some of those pieces.