Sodenashi (sleeveless vest)
Choma (hemp), wool (at neck)
Katazome (stencil)

This handsome but oddly pieced together vest from northern Japan was repurposed from a larger textile. The finely detailed design was stenciled, using rice paste resist. Although the application of the paste resist was occasionally uneven, leading to small smears and breaks in the design, the stenciling was done identically on both sides (doubling the amount of labor) to ensure that the whites would be crisp and sharp.  (Double click on the photos to for a more detailed view.)

Identical face and reverse

The block designs, called Genjimon, refer both to the traditional incense game and (in this garment) chapters 11 and 23 from the Tale of Genji. The Genjimon are interspersed with small orizuru (paper cranes). Like cranes, symbols of the Heian period are considered auspicious.

The photograph below gives some idea of the very small scale of the work.  Note that there are two parallel lines of dots, the inner dots being even smaller than the outer.  The designs shown here were hole-punched.  For a look at some stencil carver’s tools, click here.   One of the tools in the collection would have been used for punching narrow ovals, another for punching small diamonds.

Size in centimeters