Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Motifs: Pine (Matsu)

Here, we have a botanical motif that is decidedly appropriate for late autumn and winter. Pine can be depicted as pairs of needles scattered throughout the overall design, but there is a more popular rendering that is often mistaken for clouds.

The 'gumdrop' matsu kimono with a softer, woven obi.
The rounded motif of Japanese pine is not at all what many in the West would associate with an evergreen. Rather than being tall and pointed, this motif is drawn wide and rounder, more like a low-growing shrub, and it's this roundness that often causes it to be mistaken for a cloud motif, especially if branches or roots are not drawn in.

Matsu motif on the sleeve of a furisode kimono, on loan from Nichi Bei Bussan.
In the above example, another photo from my panel 'Don't be That Gaijin,' from Clockwork Alchemy 2015, the matsu that are dyed into the fabric almost look like fans. This particular kimono is not part of my collection, but Nichi Bei Bussan was kind enough to loan it to me for the purposes of demonstration. It is a furisode kimono, which means that the sleeves are quite long and fluttering; a style most appropriate for young (up to early 20s) women. With my collection, I strive to maintain only pieces that I myself can wear, and as I am past the age of furisode, I do not own any.

So far, we've only seen matsu represented on kimono, but the motif can most certainly be found on obi as well. In my first example, an antique obi from the Meiji era (approx. 1860s), the pine motif is not the motif of the pleasant rounded trees, but sprays of needles amid which rest pheasants.

Meiji Era obi with pine boughs, pheasants, chrysanthemums and peonies.
The other obi I have which sports pine motifs is actually a 'tsuke-obi' or pre-tied obi. This style is VERY convenient for getting the look of the popular Taiko Musubi, or drum knot, but without all of the hassle.

This is the 'bow' portion of a pre-tied obi with pine needles, ume (plum) and kiku (chrysanthemum).
Even with the flowers, this is still an obi that is better suited for late winter and early spring ensembles. I haven't found an occasion to wear it out yet, and as we are now in April, it may be some time before it gets to go on an excursion. I have several items in my wardrobe, not just in my kimono collection, that I reserve for specific times of year or occasions, as I am sure my kind readers do. If you care to share a story about your favorite winter sweater or summer skirt, I would love to read about them in the comments!

For tomorrow's post, we're taking a step away from the motifs  so that I can field Questions. Many of these were asked in social media, but you'll be more than welcome to ask your own!

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