Beautiful Kimonos at the Textile Museum of Canada
So incredibly beautiful is the current exhibition of Itchiku Kubota (1917 - 2003) kimonos at the Textile Museum of Canada, I just had to walk around the exhibition twice! The 41 kimonos on display are the most exquisite handmade objects I have ever seen. Kubota designed and produced these kimonos from 1976 until his death in 2003. Beautiful landscapes and seasons flow, shimmer and sparkle from one kimono to the next – even the snow scenes look poetic! What I found to be so extraordinary is that Kubota was not only a superb artist, but an expert technician, who mastered the arts of dye resist (rice paste, wax, tie-dye and stitching) and embellishment (embroidery, ink painting and gilding).
What inspired Kubota to pursue these techniques was a 16th-century fragment of a textile, in a style called tsujigahana, at the Tokyo National Museum. Kubota first saw this fragment when he was 20 years old, and it moved him so much that, "for over three hours I remained transfixed there in the deserted museum hall, contemplating this little fragment of fabric which seemed to have been on display in the showcase for me alone." Sadly, World War II and internment in a Siberian prisoner-of-war camp followed Kubota's revelation, but he persevered with his technique upon his return to Tokyo, and perfected his contemporary version of tsujigahana. Kubota received much recognition internationally for his life's work, and there is now an Itchiku Kubota Art Museum near Mount Fuji in Japan. Here in Toronto, until May 13, you can see Kubota's lovely kimonos for free at the Textile Museum of Canada, with a Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass.
Kubota had the "desire to create kimono having a soul, calling out to those who see it." With their natural themes, Kubota's soulful kimonos certainly called out to me when I saw them. They are such a unique version of the traditional Japanese garment worn for important festivals or formal occasions.
Kubota could take up to a year to complete one of his kimonos, miraculously transforming a length of just plain white silk crepe into a masterpiece. He would first sketch his design onto the white silk fabric, then use a stitched tie-dye technique called nuishime shibori, then paint or draw with sumi ink any additional designs, and finally add any stitching or embroidery, or gold or silver leaf. Perhaps Kubota's beautiful creations will inspire you to create your own textiles, kimonos and other garments.
On Tuesday, May 15 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, Eatonville Branch will be holding a program, Discover Japan: Kimono Demonstration and Hands on Calligraphy, where you can learn about the history of the kimono as well as attend a hands-on demonstration, and learn about and try traditional Japanese calligraphy, using a writing brush and black ink.