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25 The Colour Collaborative: August: Collection

I've never been much of a collector. I may own an inordinate number of books but my library is best described as an accretion, and the same could be said for my knitting yarn stash and my cupboard full of old jugs and gravy boats. Finding it impossible to part with old copies of Country Living magazine - there are boxes and boxes of them in the attic - is frankly an aberration. And having more hounds than most folk surely doesn't count. This was not a great topic choice for me.

So I wrote a list of things collected because of their colour - amber, jade, Whitby jet, Delftware - but nothing on it appealed as a peg to hang this post on. And then I thought of Boro ...

What do you know about sumptuary laws? Laws that regulate consumption and by so doing reinforce social hierarchies. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Japan's sumptuary laws were so strict that those in its poorest northern communities had access to only homespun hemp or ramie and discarded remnants of cotton for making household textiles and clothing. The cottons had been woven in the warmer south, where cotton grew, but were only available as scraps - in the permitted indigo blues, greys, browns and black* - which arrived baled and needed scouring before use. The best of them were then pieced together to make kimono, the worst torn into the narrowest possible strips and woven into a coarse, nubby cloth, saki-ori. Fisherman's jackets, futon covers, wrapping cloths, even mosquito 'nets', all were fabricated and re-fabricated from collections of wealthier people's cast-off oddments. Worn items were patched, and then the patches were patched ... making ends meet, literally.

Boro means tattered rags. But these utilitarian textiles, with their lines of reinforcing sashiko stitches and darned patches, although not intended to be decorative are beautiful. And now very collectible. Cloth frugally repaired over generations, by woman snatching time from chores or stitching while their families slept, cloth once reviled by the majority of the Japanese as the very embodiment of poverty, is now appreciated globally for its aesthetic charm and humble origins. I would love to own a few authentic boro pieces, but to collect them would be way beyond my pocket and probably beyond yours. I'm left with the Pinterest option, the way so many of us collect things now.

* The more opulent colours were the reserve of the Japanese aristocracy.

Afterword. From Boro: Rags and Tatters from the North of Japan.
Tanaka showed me the contents of an old lady's furoshiki wrap-cloth: hundreds of irregular cotton scraps, each washed, color sorted and ironed, all carefully saved up to be used who-knows-when ... [A collection of] this many swatches, he said, made her a rich woman! Poor folk were those who had to beg their relations for bits of cloth.

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below ...

Sandra at Cherry Heart       Gillian at Tales from a Happy House

CJ at Above the River       Jennifer at Thistlebear     

And July's guest poster ...
Caroline at Scraps of Us

What is The Colour Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.


49 Thoughts

Six jars of blackberry jelly ... that would seem to be the sum total of my productivity since my last post. And a lot of thinking. I guess that counts too?

Thinking about being told, to my considerable surprise, that I give little of myself away here. Thinking about what is most meaningful to know about another. Thinking about trust, and vulnerability, and self-protection. Thinking about what it means to 'be oneself'.

Thinking that re-invention can be synonymous with re-discovery.

Thinking, again, about blogging as self-portraiture. And about the fact that I'm incapable of typing porttraiture without adding an extra t.

Thinking 'How much introspective rambling is too much introspective rambling?'.

Thinking 'What will it mean to be British come September 19th?', whichever way Scotland votes.

Thinking 'Could I, should I, limit the colour palette I use online to better reflect my personal aesthetic ... black and white, greys, browns, neutrals, terracotta pinks, leaf greens, indigo blues, soft yellows, and mustard. Thinking I've no idea why I think that's a good idea, but I do.

Thinking 'I need new reading glasses'. And that two years since the first pair I've still not adjusted to needing them, period.

Thinking 'Blackberry jelly is so very much nicer than blackberry jam'. And that it's best on warm from the oven scones, buttered, and then topped with clotted cream.

Thinking I wonder what's been preoccupying you lately? Or giving you the pip? Jam or jelly? And how do you like your scones?

Thinking that I am blessed with an awesome bunch of readers. For your concern, your wisdom, your friendship, thank you.

Postscript. Just to add, given a couple of the observations made below, that although I was surprised by the emailed comment to the effect that I perhaps keep too much of myself back, I was in no way offended by it. In fact, it sparked an interesting email conversation which the commenter agreed to my mentioning here.


40 On my ...

On my iPad in this case, and also on my mind. Although I'm thinking that perhaps this post will be the first in an occasional series that might encompass any or all of what's on my desk, what's on my feet, what's on my shopping-list ... you get the idea.

A personal blog, whatever its purported focus, is essentially a self-portrait, a multi-media 'selfie' if you will. And between self and selfie lies the curation of identity, aka, choosing what, and what not, to share. It's a notion that fascinates me. And more so because we choose, in part, in accordance with our perceptions of how we'll be perceived.

If I knowingly choose to convey anything about myself here it's that identity is not fixed, and that what I look like has little relevance to who I am, what I think, or how I feel. Plus I know that, contrary to received wisdom, the camera often lies, or rather the documenting photographer often does, making a self-portrait arguably less true than a portrait proper. Are photographic self portraits fibs we tell about ourselves, or truths about how we hope we will be seen. Or are they key to self-discovery in this digital age? I shall be looking for answers to those questions as I work my way through Susan Tuttle's iPhoneography self-portraiture course.

Unsurprisingly, as I turn my attention more fully to photography, I'm rethinking my creative identity. Dyer? Definitely, and with a dye post or two drafted. But knitter? Not so much ... doc's orders, it transpires, are not to go near the sticks and string for some time (this post will probably make most sense if you've read the one that precedes it). I spent yesterday swopping things about in my studio ... for the duration the woolly stuff might as well be in the least accessible spots, given how little room I have in there. Which got me to thinking about work spaces as self-portraits. A thought I carried with me when I downloaded a back copy of Pure Green Magazine*.

I really like Pure Green and I'm guessing you would too. The photography is gorgeous, and it includes a scrummy recipe section. But the featured workplaces in Vol. 6 mostly look a tad too tidy to be true. I'm guessing they'd been styled pre shoot, which seems to miss the point somehow. One belongs to Amy Tremper, a worker in leather who tired of her life as a photographer and wanted to engage with something more hands on, the irony of which was not lost on me. And then I read Schirin Oeding's piece, 'Inconvenient Beauty: An exploration of process and what really matters most' ...
I have held the belief that slow work, done with skill and requiring practice, work that involves the whole body, not only the mind, is what really awakens us to our world ... Think of knitting, or spinning ... fibres and threads joined into one, simple things made complex, a process of hands-on transformation. ... How would the world change if we took our time every once in a while, chose to make something by hand, cherished the slow ... honour your hard work, cultivate your skills ... you are what you make.
... and I wept a little - Pollyannaish me, the cheery woman whose blog is littered with posts expressing similar mind-body and maker-ish beliefs - for the many things that poor health takes from us. And then I determined to get at least some of them back, even if knitting remains off limits and photography my principle preoccupation. Self-portrait of a rejuvenated Annie ... pending.

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Thank you all so so much for your sweet words lately. The Aged P's are still keeping me on my toes and somewhat greedily consuming my time. But otherwise I'm fine, truly ... some tears are cathartic.

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As always, this is not a sponsored post, but the images are links.

* If you're in the EU you can order a print copy from Line+Liv
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