Restoration of Ancient Textile Fragments.

The Preservation and Succession of Traditional Technology.

In response to the current critical situation facing the weaving industry, Koho established the “Japan Traditional Weaving Preservation Research Society.”
The purpose of the organization is the restoration of the traditional technology of yarn dyed figure cloth, as well as transmitting it to a new generation of artisans.
To accomplish this, we conduct research of extraordinary ancient weaving arts, achieve revival through restoration, and work together with weaving-related artisans to continue to pass on necessary production technology to the next generation.
This project, called the “comprehensive restoration project,” involves researching of all traditional technologies related to the production of ancient fabrics, as well ascarrying out their restoration.
From the hand processing of thread from silk cocoons to weaving equipment and tool making, we are creating woven fabrics using production techniques from former times, to the greatest extent possible.
Through this restoration project, we create jobs for artisans for whom job opportunities are currently decreasing, preserve technology, pass the technology on to the next generation and produce technical records for future reference.

What is Textile Restoration?

What is Textile Restoration?

If we begin with a detailed analysis of the dyeing and weaving processes of ancient textile fragments, research the structure of the long-disappeared looms that wove those pieces, reproduce the looms, use production techniques that are original to the era in question as much as possible, dye yarn with the same kind of plants, and recreate the original conditions as much as possible, the result is then called “Textile Restoration.” A loom is not a versatile device that allows the weaving of many different kinds of fragments. On the contrary, one loom can only weave one kind of fragment. Because the make-up of the loom differs depending on the nature of the fragment, the structure of each loom has to designed by a process of conjecture, using the fragment to be produced as a reference. The reproduction of a loom to match each fragment is absolutely necessary.

Textile Restoration is to “Become Foolish”

Textile Restoration is to “Become Foolish”

“The philosophy behind textile restoration follows that even if there are 10,000 intersecting points of warp and weft threads, if those 10,000 points are correctly, completely and patiently examined, and if all is understood, restoration can be successfully achieved, “even if 1000 years have passed since its creation” said the first in our family line, Tatsumura Heizo I. In the process of making one piece of fabric, the number of intersecting points of warp and weft threads begins from 10,000 to several million points. To restore a piece of weaving, one first must become foolish. One must have the tenacity of a stubborn mule as well as wholehearted honesty and earnestness to accomplish this.

Reconstructed ancient fragment

Brocade with Repetitive Motif of Flowers, Birds and Beasts on a Green Background

 (Buddhist Sutra Cover)Reconstructed ancient fragment

This is a reproduction of one of the ancient fabrics preserved in the Shoso-in Repository, Nara, a rare example of warp-patterned brocade. The original fabric is known to have been employed in banners used for the first anniversary of Emperor Shomu's death in 757 (the original pieces are now owned by the National Museums in Tokyo and Kyoto).
It has a very elaborate and sophisticated design of a repetitive pattern with each unit consisting of two parts. One part has a Chinese-style flower in the center, above which are a pair of beasts and, further up, a pair of water birds floating on a wave. The other part consists of a smaller flower and some fruit, seemingly a pomegranate. The design was presumably derived from a typical Mesopotamian motif called "A pair of beasts under the Tree of Life." This makes us think that, in fact, very little has changed in the history of design. As expressed in the phrase "permanence and impermanence," changes are made at the design level only, not to the patterns themselves.
The whole composition consists of concentric circles in a hexagonal shape, but it cannot be called merely abstract. This design goes far beyond the rigid modern definitions of abstract or representational. Also, because all of the white flowing lines are edged with ancient purple dyes, and the delineating lines are somewhat soft, this excellent example of classic fabric conveys an elegant Japanese atmosphere.

Brocade with Repetitive Motif of Peonies and Arabesque on a Red Background

 (Buddhist Sutra Cover)Brocade with Repetitive Motif of Peonies and Arabesque on a Red Background

Compared to the fabrics made during the earlier Nara Period (710-784), those made during the Heian Period (794-1185) are far more scarce. This is probably due mainly to the Onin Revolt (1476-1477) which reduced all of Kyoto to ashes, as well as other lesser civil wars and natural disasters which periodically occurred in the city. One of the most important and rare examples remaining from those days is a group of fabrics used for the borders of the sutra covers kept in Jingo-ji Temple, Kyoto. Known as the Jingo-ji Fabrics, this "Brocade with Motif of Flowers and Birds" is one of them. In order to reproduce the fabric accurately, we studied the composition of the weaves. This convinced us to first make a rod-shaped tool called a rokuro, to control the warp thread attached to the loom. In this way, we were able to recreate this Heian-period warp-patterned brocade.

Brocade with Repetitive Motif of Peonies and Arabesque on a Red Background

 (Buddhist Sutra Cover)Reconstructed ancient fragment

A number of ancient votive objects found both in the Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine and Asuka Shrine, Wakayama, are considered to date from the Muromachi Period.
Among them is a three-faced mirror with a brocaded bag. It is thought that the mirror was wrapped in this fabric, “Brocade with Repetitive Motif of Peonies and Arabesque on a Red Background” and put in the mirror case. This fabric was designated a national treasure in 1955 and is presently stored in the Kyoto National Museum.

The brocade does not look any different from a double-sided twill of the Heian Period, but haha-date (ground warp) and shin-date (cord) that were used in the Heian Period became omote-date (warp yarn comprising the obverse side) and ura-date (warp yarn comprising the reverse side) respectively, making a fabric a figured double cloth. Various new techniques were employed in this brocade in the loom apparatus as well as in its design including: using a five-yarn group harness and the application of yellow, purple and white in turn for the horizontally repetitive two different kinds of peony patterns.

To those seeking more detailed information regarding the origin of Nishiki.
Tatsumura Koho has written the following in order to transmit the technical skills and culture of Nishiki to future generations. Please utilize it in your studies.
(Only available in Japanese)
Published by Shogakukan
The Essence of Silk Thread; All about Nishiki: Nishiki—Weaving Light
To those seeking more detailed information regarding the origin of Nishiki.
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