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 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.