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    A micro perspective


    In a quiet residential area in Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture, there, a traditional sawtooth roof stands out. A factory that has been creating textiles for generations since the Meiji era, later specialising in embroidery. Working with Mame Kurogouchi from the first season, for this season embroidery expressing the tranquil beauty of bamboo forest swaying in the wind is woven onto silk organdy.

    A vital part of the embroidery process is programming. Based on the drawing by Maiko Kurogouchi, the design is created, then the programmer carefully decides the order in which the thread runs and the number of times the needle is dropped. As by hand natural curves can be drawn, but on the other hand only straight lines can be used in programming. Many attempts are taken to override structural barriers. Take for example, the point at which the needle is dropped. In a microscopic world, the difference of a few tenths of a millimetre will tear the fabric or cut the thread. Detailed planning in where and how far apart the needle should be dropped, reducing the number of times the thread is cut to reduce the damage on the fabric while embroidering faithfully to the drawing are all taken into account. Translating the designer’s language into numbers, countless dots are dropped onto the fabric.

    For the embroidery woven by sewing machine, the fabric is placed between a water-soluble washi (Japanese paper) that dissolves in hot water. By using washi, it helps reduce the shrinkage of the fabric, as well as acting like a cushion, giving the embroidery a soft and light impression.

    Furthermore, taking into account most fabrics' tendency to shrink when embroidery is applied, extra care is taken for the clipping process of the fabric. Even a slight amount of shrinkage in the fabric can lead to wrinkles in the embroidery, greatly affecting the quality of the finished design. The clipping must not be too tight or too loose. The optimum tension for each fabric is determined by the craftsman’s sense of touch.

    The bamboo grove pattern embroidery that represents the theme of this season may look like a single-coloured thread. In reality, two threads with slightly different colours and textures are used, and by tactically weaving them, one is able to express depth and three-dimensionality. The early summer scenery of the bamboo grove drawn by Maiko Kurogouchi is entrusted to the threads, embroidered like an ink painting.

    “I am always amazed, as Maiko Kurogouchi always makes requests that exceed my imagination. Even if it’s something that cannot be done from all the past experiences compiled. I think about it from scratch to make it possible. As a result, there are many new expressions that were born.”

    So says the craftsman who has been in charge of MameKurogouchi’s embroidery programming for over 10 years. Since the establishment of the brand, they have had countless meetings, and have continued to explore the delicate yet dynamic embroidery unique to Mame. The sensuous nuances and expressions that preside that ‘Mame-ness’, can only be created based on a relationship of trust with the craftsmen.

    Photography: Erika Yoshino / Words: Mikiya Matsushita (kontakt) / Edit: Runa Anzai (kontakt) Translation: Shimon Miyamoto