Exhibition Notice: Mottainai: The Fabric of Life (Portland)

Opening today at the Japanese Gardens in Portland, Oregon is Mottainai: The Fabric of Life, Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan.

“This exhibition of antique Japanese folk textiles from the Meiji period (1868-1912) is comprised of selections from the private collections of Stephen Szczepanek (suh-PAN-ecks) of Sri in Brooklyn and Kei Kawasaki of Gallery Kei in Kyoto. The exhibition demonstrates the remarkable ability of the Japanese to not only make do with the very little they had, but to make art with it.

For generations before the “Economic Miracle” took place in the decades following World War II, Japan was a poor country. People recycled everything. Nothing was wasted, and the word “mottainai” (waste nothing!) was a ubiquitous exclamation used by every frugal parent to warn children about wasting a bite of food or a scrap of cloth or paper.

All of the textiles and garments on view were made from bast fibers foraged from the forest, or patched and quilted together from second-hand scraps of cotton garments of city-dwellers who traded their hand-me-downs with the farmers for rice and vegetables.The exhibition represents a wide variety of traditional textile making and decorating techniques, including sashiko stitching, bast fiber weaving and dyeing, and patchwork quilting, the latter referred to as boro.”

This short exhibition only runs through November 27 – so see it while you can. Learn more about the textiles and objects included here.

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