Be still my indigo-loving, denim obsessed, all-things-Japanese-admiring heart, for this April there is to be an exhibition of 40 fine examples of Boro work dating from the late 1700s at Somerset House, of which some are for sale ……(‘carefully cuts up credit card to avoid bankruptcy…prices start from £5000’) .
Regular readers may remember that I’m a teeny bit in love with Mottainai, the Japanese art of mending and making do and Boro can be roughly translated into ‘mended rags’. I appreciate this doesn’t sound too promising, but there is something magically captivating about the layers of sewn, quilted and patched indigo fabric, made from generations of everyday work wear scraps layered on top of each other, that make up Boro furnishings and clothes.
They have been surprisingly unregarded by the Japanese themselves, as they are a reminder of more frugal, simple and challenging times when fabric was scarce, times were hard and even the smallest scrap of indigo (or brown, colours were only worn by the aristocracy) fabric would be saved and sewn into bed clothes or jackets. Westerners can’t get enough of the denim hued patchworks and there’s a keen market for the best examples, hence the prices.
Isn’t it interesting how domestic items like quilts -hand sewn, mostly by women- end up generations later being considered art and selling for the price of a small car. The press release suggests a comparison with the work of artist Paul Klee, which would probably come as a shock to the original Boro sewers, what a shame they aren’t around to see their stitches appreciated.
Denim heads and quilters, you might want to note in your diary that the exhibition is on from 2-26 April at the East Wing gallery and is free. See you there.