Saratetsu linen furoshiki with vintage stencil pattern in our shop ->
Saratetsu, the last yuzen wrapping cloth (or furoshiki) dyer in central Tokyo, has accumulated a treasure trove of stencils since opening for business in 1910.
KotoKoto was especially fascinated by the design of old paper stencils that Saratetsu used before switching to computer generated screens 22 years ago. These old paper stencils are called katagami, and are made by layering multiple pieces of Japanese paper glued together with persimmon tannin. Kimono and other fabric dyed with these waterproof paper stencils were extremely popular in Japan from the mid Edo (around 1800) to the early 20th century.
We wanted to pick two stencil patterns to be used for our new linen designs. But with such rich choices available, making a decision was incredibly difficult.
Many were not just beautiful but had special meaning to the Japanese people. For example, the ‘feather of arrow’ pattern had the power to ward off evil. It also was often used on gifts to a bride to wish her a happy marriage. As an arrow never came back once it was shot, the gift senders wanted to wish that the bride would not return home because of a broken marriage.
After taking many pictures of the old stencils, countless hours were spent back in California contemplating all these attractive patterns and the meanings they convey. We are finally happy to announce the selection of the butterflies and fern patterns!
According to the book “Symbols of Japan – Thematic Motifs in Art and Design” by Merrily Baird, the butterfly is a symbol of joy and longevity. It is also a symbol of rebirth, a sentiment that we strongly wish for the Japanese people as they continue to recover from the devastating earthquake of 2011. We also thought that it was appropriate for KotoKoto’s launch in our hope to be an ever changing and exciting website for people to discover new things. The butterfly motif has enjoyed widespread popularity in Japan since the Nara period (710-794).
The fern is a symbol of long life and family prosperity because of the numerous spores on its leaves. We especially liked this pattern because the fern represents elegance and hardiness, characteristics that we seek in the skill and craft of artists. The fern motif has been popular in Japan since the Heian period (794-1185) and has also been fashionable in the West since the ‘pteridomania’, or a craze for ferns, struck Victorian Britain in the 19th century.
We are now testing colors with Saratetsu and will be starting to print these fabrics very soon!
Read all of the previous postings about Saratetsu here.