Most of the time, labels confine works of art and crudely points viewers in a direction that precludes imagination. Strangely enough this time attaching a label to Japanese scrolls will achieve quite the opposite. Look at these scrolls as “works on paper”, this is what most of them are. Suddenly, your imagination is flooded with known images of “works on paper” – such as Renaissance drawings in brown ink , a graphite on paper by a German artist, or lithographs by contemporary artists. The words “works on paper” spurred a journey through a series of your familiar pieces. At the end of the journey lays a scroll. As you come back to a scroll in front of you , your dialogue with the piece starts to have a different dimension. The work is quietly awaiting and inviting you to engage without the need of many words, and now you accept the invitation spontaneously.
Many of the objects shown in this gallery lived with our ancestors. Some were part of the daily domestic routine, while others were brought out on special occasions, symbolizing the joy that accompanies a celebration. Some came from the Way of Tea culture, with strict rules about how to use them.
Removed from traditional function and transported into contemporary life, each object stands on its own and starts to find an affinity for its new environment.
Where do you want to place this piece in your living space?
Zuancho is the Japanese name for design books that were used in Kyoto’s textile industry around 1890 to 1940. The word zu-an-cho consists of three Japanese kanji characters:
zu – design or drawing,
an – idea,
cho – book or notebook,
and thus means book of design ideas.
Kimono dealers, their clients, and the craftsmen who dyed, wove, cut, embroidered the textile, and sewed the garments used zuancho to communicate with each other when designing a custom-made kimono. The books themselves were made by skilled artisans who hand-carved designs onto woodblocks, and hand-printed the pages. In the run-up to WWII, the books fell out of use and vanished – until I happened to find a trove of forgotten volumes stored in a warehouse on my family’s century-old estate. With my grandmother’s blessing, I brought them to the United States, where they have come to be viewed as unique works of art. In 2008, I co-curated an exhibition of Zuancho in Kyoto: Textile Design Books for Kimono Trade, at Stanford University, which has started building a collection of zuancho for its Department of Special Collections.