Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Motif: Juxtapositions

Rather than taking today to talk about any of the motifs I could have used for 'J,' I thought it might be fun to instead look at some motifs that are created with different design elements. On their own, these items might have one meaning, but in juxtaposition to other designs, the intent is subtly shifted.

When I came up with this solution to my 'J' problem, I had one specific motif in mind. This combination of bamboo, pine, and plum is so common that it has its own name: Shochikubai. Also referred to as 'The Three Friends of Winter' this motif is considered to be highly auspicious and is most associated with the New Year season (Lunar, but also Gregorian), and is also the name of a very popular brand of sake.

Shochikubai with cute mousy-type critters guard our kitchen

The noren above is the only example of this motif that I could find in the house, which was very surprising to me, given how very popular it is. Bemused, I went back through my collection and stumbled upon another motif that is made up of many singular aspects drawn together-- Shoen Road.

This motif, also known as 'Shining Road,' is actually more like a river motif, and the other aspects that go into making it a cohesive whole can vary greatly, depending on what impression the artist behind the fabric wished to convey.

Detail of sleeve on pink 'shoen road' kimono.
The floral motifs (fuji, ume and kiku-- wisteria, plum, and chrysanthemum), as well as the soft pink hue mark this as a decidedly 'early spring' kimono. You might notice some other design elements in this very busy piece-- the hanabishi diamonds, as well as a faux-shibori print ground for the wisteria. There are also auspicious (if somewhat drunken) cranes scattered through the design.

I find that pieces like this one do much better with uncomplicated obi and accessories; something that will mute the effect of having so much going on visually. When I wore this piece out for a very (VERY) late winter excursion, I chose a vintage knit shawl to compliment the ensemble. It was still cool enough for the second layer to be necessary, and made the whole effect less 'springy' overall.

Pink 'shoen road' kimono paired with blue ombre obi and knit shawl.
If you've been following along so far, you may have noticed that there are a great many pieces in my collection that are not limited to just one motif. I think this adds to the versatility of the garments, as well as to the effect I can have in making my own juxtapositions in ensembles. I'm sure that this is quite common in fashion and in art, and I would love to hear about any favorite pairings of theme or color my kind readers have in their own arts and fashions. Please feel free to write about them in the comments!

Tomorrow, we will be looking at what I refer to in the labels as a 'manufactured' theme. So far, we've been seeing either plants or animals with the occasional geometric, but tomorrow's theme of Kasa (umbrellas/parasols) is a motif that is clearly man-made in origin.


  1. That pink pattern suits you well - the motif is just amazing!

    1. Thank you so much! Pink is NOT a color I would have reached for before discovering kimono. Even now, kimono are the only pink items in my wardrobe...