Monday, 19 October 2009

Why Purple Donsu

I belong to  a group which studies Japanese textiles. In the past, I have even been into the V&A Study rooms to look at a book of Okinawan samples and subsequently  wove a piece of silk as a replica of one sample.  My version is in silk at 60 epi but the original was 90 to 100 epi.

My current interest in donsu was  stirred up by the group leader, Rod Byatt, from his remarks on  Meibutsugire. This Japanese word seems to translate as 'Famed Fabrics' or perhaps 'Named Fabrics'. These are small pieces of precious fabric which have been made into containers for the precious articles used in the Tea Ceremony. I was taken with two types of  woven fabric.

These are two pieces of KINRAN which have been used in Buddhist ceremonies. It is a type of woven inlay but not like Theo Moorman technique. On close examination, the gold paper thread about 1 mm wide, is laid right across the fabric from side to side. Where it does not show in the pattern on the front, it just disappears behind. A friend is getting me some gold paper thread from Japan and I shall have a go at this.

The other type is DONSU. A trawl on the web will not get much that is helpful on donsu. It  originated in China and it is a small repeating pattern of polychrome damask. It is used as surrounding mount for pictures.  I do not own a piece - yet! But I have feelers out. This means I do not have any photos of my own.

There are photos in the following books

  1.  Meibutsugire (Kyoto Shoin's Art Library of Japanese Textiles, No 19).
  2. Susan-Marie Best, ' Meibutsu-gire. Fabrics in the Japanese Tea Cermeony', P136ff in  “Silk and stone: the art of Asia” (1996, hardback, ISBN10 1898113203).

    There is also what sounds like a useful article in Chanoyu Quarterly, Issue No 17, 1977. The article is by Kitamura Tokusai and is 'An Introduction to Donsu'. I will try the British Library.

Japanese Tea Mart RIKYU sells tea containers and, in some cases, the shifuku or fabric covers, with them. The fabrics are not categorised so I am guessing that they are both donsu.

The striped one does have areas which are 'drawloom-like' and that seems to be quite common in the higher class of donsu.

So that explains the donsu. The purple comes from my favourite which is gold weft on a purple warp and is Figure 12 in Reference 2 above.

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About Me

I am weaver and - -. I dye my yarns with acid dyes, I paint my warps, put fabric collages and stencils on my weaving. I have three looms, a 12 inch wide, 12 shaft Meyer for demos and courses, a 30 inch Louet Kombo which is nominally portable but has a stand, two extra beams and a home-made device containing a fan reed. And last a 32 shaft Louet Megado which is computer controlled, has a sectional warp and a second warp beam and I am the proud owner of an AVL warping wheel which I love to bits and started by drilling holes in. I inserted a device for putting a cross in. I have just acquired an inkle loom and had a lesson from an expert so I can watch TV and weave at the same time. I am interested in weaving with silk mostly 60/2 although I do quite a bit with 90/2 silk. I also count myself as a bookbinder with a special interest in Coptic binding.