Kogin – Starting out…
June 29, 2009
My initial experiment with kogin was playing with a wide range of yarn types – cottons and wools – and different surface designs on a piece of tapestry canvas on a stretcher. The classic monograph on Japanese textiles to my mind is the William Rathbun, Beyond the Tanabata Bridge, and in it there are some particularly good close-up photographs of kogin and Nambuhishizashi. I supplemented this material with the excellent photobook of kogin and sashiko, published as part of the Kyoto Shoin Art Library of Japanese Textiles series. I am as much drawn to the coloured wool used in sashiko diamond work from Nambu, as to the austere blue-and-white classic kogin work of Eastern Tohoku.
From there, it was a matter of buckling down and working with proper unbleached kogin thread on a very dark blue commercial kogin cloth, as distributed in Australia by Sanshi. This particular cloth was almost black; I’d recommend a paler colour where available if you don’t want to work in bright direct light (and a good white cloth underneath your work). I was forever holding my work up to the light to see that I’d stitched the correct row of holes – developing in the process a formidable admiration for the women of Tohoku working in winter and at night by candelight.
Only the second from the top is what might be referred to as authentic-traditional; the others are modern takes on traditional motifs. I’ll dig out my notes from these early days and share them with you.