Cotton and Indigo

Textile art from Japan
Cotton has been around since the Neolithic era (between 6000 to 5000 B.C.), but is a relatively newcomer to Japan— appearing a mere six centuries ago. Despite it’s youth in a country whose textile history has centered on silk, cotton has been influential in Japanese culture, according to author Teresa Duryea Wong in her new book, Cotton & Indigo from Japan.
 
Divided into three sections: Quilts, Cotton, and Indigo, Duryea Wong features a number of of renowned quilt artists such as Yasuko Saito recognized for her bold use of color and her contemporary designs, and Keiko Goke, a self-taught quilter whose art quilts are filled with color and are infused with embroidery. Also included in the first part of the book are Japan’s quilt fabric manufacturers with an overview provided on each of their specialties. 
 
But the heart and soul of the book is cotton and indigo. For the historians, Dureya Wong offers a concise history of cotton of when it was introduced, but also how it affected farming in Japan. During the Edo period (1603-1868), rulers of that age dictated that farmers farms, dyers only dyed, and weavers only weaved, and merchants were solely responsible for sales transactions. However, small-scale cotton farming changed this dynamic. Family farmers were now allowed to grow, spin, dye, weave and sell or trade.   
 
Once cotton had a strong foothold in Japanese textile society, its prized fibers were turned into cloth that provided warmth and durability. Material made from cotton was often reused and patched over and over, which became known as the iconic boro. These antiquated upcycled garments are now highly coveted for their history and modest beauty.
 
But it all and the blues, which has a special meaning for the Japanese. According to Duryea Wong, “It is symbolic  or water and rebirth. Blue is magical. Indigo from Japan is so adored it even has its own name: Japan Blue.” Associated with indigo, we learn that in today's society Japan Blue is equated with denim. For the fashion conscious (known as “denim head”) many seek the best blue jeans, traveling to Japan for its quality cotton and its renowned Japan Blue. These fashionistas find the high-fashion denim they yearn for in specialized boutiques. Later in the section, readers get the chance to learn how Japan Blue is achieved by master dyers.  
 
Duryea Wong's credentials as a researcher shines throughout Cotton & Indigo from Japan. She provides enough information to satisfy readers’ curiosity without overwhelming them with an academic information dump. With more than 300 photographs and behind-the scene details, Cotton & Indigo from Japan is a beautiful volume and the ideal gift for readers with an interest in Japanese textile art and indigo.
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