In July, I wrote about creating a piece based on the kanji 尺八・shakuhachi. My patron has a brother who (to my understanding) repairs, makes and also plays the instrument. The piece was for him.
Before the ‘assignment’ could be considered though, researching the kanji was in order. What did it/they look like and how complicated would they be? Could it be rendered in shibori? I was suprised to find that they were quite straightforward – only a few strokes. 尺 (shaku) – refers to a unit of measure – 4 strokes, and 八 (hachi)–means 8, but more relevant in this context is that it is the 3rd in the Iroha syllabary organization – only two (strokes).
After transferring the drawn characters onto linen, the next consideration was the approach for stitching – in what direction would I work? I decided that moving in the same directions as one would when writing would be most logical. The first “stroke” was on the left, so I stitched from top to bottom. The second “stroke” was left to right with a “stop” or turn to move down (all one stroke) – and so on.
My concern was that the strokes would convey some sense of the brush and the characteristics of those strokes. The beginnings and endings needed to have ‘proper’ weight. Another aspect was simply composition which included the space between the characters – enough space to breathe, yet seen together as a word. It has to be read.
Once stitching was completed and all thread drawn up tightly, the piece was immersed in a natural indigo vat. It was “dipped” and given oxidation time many times over until it arrived at a satisfying depth of hue. And then, those other “tidying up” details – rinsing (maybe washing), pressing, the han (name stamp), press again, casings…done.
Finally, this month, it was delivered to its new home. One isn’t always privy to what happens with pieces after they move on to their new life. Sometimes a story is told, but rarely does one see it. This was one of those rare and surprising gifts.