>A collection of 48½ large sample books of Kyoto silk from the twenties and thirties. Kyoto Orimonoshodo Meikai &c, c1920 to 1940. Various sizes corresponding to quarto or small folio, publisher's cloth or silk with stamped or paper label titles, some still in their card slipcases. Thousands of fabric samples mounted in window card leaves.
These were, I'm told, in the family storehouse for decades and insects have sampled several covers and occasionally worked their way into the card leaves. A few covers show signs of mild damp but nothing drastic and there is general dustiness and some browning of card leaves - again nothing drastic - and all but one or two fabric swatches are in excellent shape. There are, out of however many thousand swatches in 48 volumes, perhaps a half dozen missing. The 49th - the half referred to - has about half of its 144 samples removed. Au$7,200
These belonged to the Onishi Gofukumise, the Onishi Drygoods Store - kimono drapers of Uchika in the Ehime prefecture - a company that still exists in modern premises in the area. Their stamp is in many volumes and sometimes they have added a date stamp or written in the date, ranging from 1923 to 1938. All are from Kyoto, most under the banner of the Kyoto Orimonoshodo meikai - the textile merchants association. Lists of the member textile firms appear in some volumes.
The first thing that struck me looking through these is the quality of book production. Many of these, most of these, are books produced with the same care as the best Kyoto design albums by publishers like Unsodo. There's nothing flimsy or slipshod; these books took a lot of time and care to make.
The album titles, those I've been able to decipher, are not much help to me. They seem to be evocative or aspirational - much like the work of contemporary colour namers who label a colour 'harmony' instead of brown and 'hushed loam' rather than shit brown. Perhaps a textile expert will know that 'Encouragement', 'Mikado', 'Star' and 'Maple' (my approximations), if not trade marks, are particular ways of weaving or dyeing.
I don't like to boast but I can honestly say I know near as much about silk weaving as I do about playing the pedal steel guitar. Most of these seem to focus on the new season colours rather than patterns, though patterns are certainly there, but the weaving styles aren't by any means plain. There are creped silks, ribbed silks, damask like patterns and other esoteric textures produced by whatever occult means Japanese weavers used to make light play in different ways over the fabric. The pattern fabrics are I think resist dyed. In all, I believe I spot chirimen, kinsha, rinzu, and maybe omeshi techniques. Maybe.
Whether it's the pre-war born generation dying off or economic shift, a lot of fabulous textile stuff - design and sample albums - of the late 19th and early twentieth century has come out of Japan in the last few years. I've bought some and watched with hungry eyes much more go by and I notice it's slowed to a trickle. I'd like to think there's more to come but I suspect those old company and family storehouses have been pretty much emptied. I doubt another cache as rich as this, so specific to place and time, will be along anytime soon.
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