Over the Blue Horizon

Tsutsugaki Textiles of Japan

Here’s an exceptional book you don’t see for sale very often in the West: “Tsutsugaki Textiles of Japan: Traditional Freehand Paste Resist Indigo Dyeing Techniques of Auspicious Motifs” with preface by Rokosuke Ei, foreword by Kiyotaro Tsujiai, edited by Sachio Yoshioka featuring textiles from the collection of Gensho Sasakura.

Tsutsugaki is a Japanese term for the practice of drawing designs in rice paste on cloth, dyeing the cloth, washing the paste off, and leaving a lighter design on a darker background. The rice paste is typically made from sweet rice, which has a high starch content and is therefore rather sticky. The paste is applied through a tube (the tsutsu) similar to the tubes which are used by Western bakers to decorate cakes. The cloth is typically cotton, and the dye is typically indigo, so the design is usually white on blue. Clothing and banners for were often made in this manner. The designs are often creatures from Japanese mythology such as the crane or the tortoise, or a family crest, or a name (written in kanji), and flowers and trees were common motifs as well.

This brand-new copy is comprised almost completely of large (many full-page) color photographs of exceptional tsutsugaki items with text in both Japanese and English. Each of the 189 full-color plates is accompanied by an English description to include a short photographic section on how tsutsugaki is made. Unlike many Japanese books of this genre, understanding the text is not an issue – the English explanations are very well done. The book is divided into chapters with each focusing on common tustsugaki subjects: Hoo (Phoenix); Shishi (Lion Dog); Noshi (Auspicious Abalone); Shochikubai (Plum, Bamboo, Pine); Shochikubai and Tsurukame (Plum, Bamboo, Pine, Crane, Tortoise); Tsurukame (Crane and Tortoise); Take (Bamboo); Ogi (Fan); Takarazukushi (Treasures); Haioke (Traditional Game Container); Soka (Flowering Plants); Chadogu (Tea Ceremony Implements); Marumon (Circular Motifs); Kamon (Family Crests); Choju (Animals and Birds); and Monogatari (Folk Tales). This is an exceptionally nice book – outstanding English explanations, beautiful photographs, and an interesting and comprehensive look at a fascinating genre of Japanese textiles.

This 177-page, 11.75 x 8.75 inch softcover was published by Shikosha Publishing in 1987. Condition is brand-new with minor shelf wear, ready to occupy a place of honor in your textile library.