meisen hitoe with circles IMG_9357

Stenciled warps and wefts (meisen)

From a distance, this unusual hitoe seems very austere. The white ground appears to be decorated with varying sizes of enso – which Wikipedia describes as “a Japanese word meaning “circle” and a concept strongly associated with Zen”. Enso are typically rendered in brushstrokes with sumi, so the casual observer might imagine that someone had made a hitoe out of material that was initially purchased to practice with.

On closer inspection, it becomes clear that what at first might appear to be careless smudges in the centers of the larger circles are actually dabs of color.

close up - meisen hitoe with circles IMG_9358

Below is a close-up of some of the circles, which are dabbed with random quantities of bright and cheerful color, so what starts out as a serious design turns out to be very playful and exuberant. Meisen designs repeat, which brings down their cost. This hitoe has a repeat of 29 inches. One can almost feel the pleasure of the designer as he worked to subtly differentiate each row from the previous row in an effort to diguise the repeat and give the finished product the look of a one-of-a-kind garment.

close up of circles w color IMG_9361