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  • Letter from Nagano 12.02.2022

    The letters are on the Cable Knit Pullover and Cable Knit Loose Top with Hand Stitched Letter to crystalize the Memory and scenery that inspired the making of the “Land” Collection.

    Photography: Yuichiro Noda / Edit: Runa Anzai (kontakt)

  • Beyond the shape 11.22.2022

    ‘Knowing the properties of glass, there are complex designs one does not incorporate. However, when challenged, a novel design is born.‘

    These are the words from the artisan who worked on the glass accessory resembling the Jomon pottery. The heat-resistant glass used as the source is known to be incredibly flexible. By applying 1000°C to 2000°C to the glass, its form transforms into any shape like candy craft, a perfect suit to express the shapes and patterns of the Jomon pottery. Although a good match, it remained a refreshing yet challenging expression of the curved lines and patterns intertwining.

    Carefully controlling the fire to avoid the glass from shattering, leaving a certain thickness, the glass is stretched, twisted and combined. With repetition, pieces similar to fragments of Jomon pottery appear. This time, the creation began its journey not from the design. Instead, downloaded shapes and patterns of Jomon research, putting with the creations trust on the artisans knowledge and skill of glass. Once the prototype was created, through creative discussion with the artisan, 8 befitting designs for the collection were selected.

    Heat-resistant glass known for its combination of strength against shattering, clarity, and its lightness. A modern resource best fit to be worn as an accessory, resembling a clear gray obsidian, brings out the primitive formative art.

    Photography: Yuichiro Noda / Words & Edit: Runa Anzai (kontakt) / Translation: Shimon Miyamoto

  • Jomon – The codes, land and the spirituality (English) 11.08.2022

    The Jomon period, as well as the various cultures which emerged from that historical background, serve as one of the most important inspirations for this season's collection. Maiko Kurogouchi learned that her hometown was the center of that culture, thousands of years ago, during the Middle Jomon period. Why did the distinct culture of the Middle Jomon period spread from Nagano? And just what was the Jomon period like? We unravel this story with an essay by Michiho Ishino, a researcher of the Jomon period and Suwa belief.

    Ruins from the Jomon period continue to be discovered to this day. However, the characteristic form represented by the Idojiri ruins, which incorporates an abundance of magical and decorative patterns, is not commonplace. During the Middle Jomon period, spanning around 1,000 years, there was a cultural region centered at the southwestern foot of Mt. Yatsugatake, extending east to the Inaya Valley, south through the Kofu Basin, all the way to the Tama Hills and the Sagami region. The Yakemachi style pottery from the eastern foot of Yatsugatake, and the arabesque-patterned pottery centered on the Matsumoto Basin, also influence each other. Let us consider for a moment, the background behind the emergence of this peculiar form.

    Why does Jomon iconography resonate with us? It is not a language. Nor is it art. However, it is clear that there is a code, almost like a language - and it undoubtedly appeals to the aesthetic sense.
    Where there is a code, there is certainly a message to be conveyed. Jomon earthenware, engraved with intricate three-dimensional patterns, shows traces of cooking. It was a practical object, never meant for viewing appreciation.

    It is said that to establish "civilization", there must be production of food through agriculture, as well as a surplus of the food produced.
    The idea is “the accumulation of wealth, and possession”. This is a roundabout way of saying that the "concept of ownership" is the beginning of civilization, as well as the beginning of economy. Unfortunately, it is also the most fundamental motivation for organized strife, which is to say, war. In particular, the “invention of the concept of land ownership” may have been the origin of business in human society.

    It is generally said that the Jomon culture was not a civilization. And that is the background to the debate over the theory of Jomon agriculture. Gathering nuts and storing them. Attempting to increase certain plants around their homes, in order to gather nuts.

    Is that not agriculture?
    No, it is “planned cultivation”!

    Thus a bizarre word was born, perhaps in order not to waver from the axis of “Jomon having never been a civilization”. It is a matter of ideology. However, it can be said with certainty that there was no “concept of land ownership” in the daily lives of the Jomon people, who migrated repeatedly as a matter of course. (Although there surely would have been at least a sense of "territoriality")

    Jomon society also had tools. What we find now are mainly stone tools and earthenware, but of course there were also wooden tools, and numerous lacquered wooden products have been found as well. This high culture is a far cry from the common perception of “primitive times”. The most important of the tools was obsidian, the best edged tool until the arrival of ironware. The obsidian around Wadatoge in particular is known for its clear blue-black color, and was once the greatest "brand" in Japan. Of course, it was not seen as a brand just because of beauty. They are blades of superior quality.

    Occasionally, ruins are found with an accumulation of high quality obsidian ingots. In the modern person’s perception, this seems to equate to the “accumulation of wealth”. In fact, clay figurines of unmatched splendor are often found in the vicinity. In them, we smell “wealth”. The high-quality obsidian itself begins to feel like currency. However, there is no “economy” in the era before civilization. Obsidian from Wadatoge has been found in the Kinki region to the west, and in Hokkaido to the north. How did it “circulate” in an age without civilization or economy? Not in the physical sense, of course.

    None of us can deny a civilization that has advanced this far. If we want to start over, we would have to wind the clock back to the beginning of the Yayoi period. But that is impossible. Certainly, many people are beginning to feel that the current civilization has reached an impasse, though, nothing is born through the denial of civilization. However, perhaps there is something to be learned from pre-civilization societies.

    A message from before civilization.
    Pre-civilizational values.

    This will never be something that can be reduced to words like “barbaric” or “uncivilized”.

    In order to receive a message from the distant past, we must try to understand how people from the distant past felt and thought. Thinking back, how many of our senses have we lost in keeping pace with the progress of civilization? We could even go as far as saying that, for every useful tool we have acquired, we have lost one of our senses in exchange.

    For example, the sense that people had in the era without clocks, of looking up at the sky to keep track of time. That is not a skill that goes by any manual. It would surely have functioned even on cloudy days. How did they meet up without cell phones, watches, or maps? We have acquired shoes, and become able to walk safely to our meeting places. And on flat pavement, that is. Whether barefoot, in zori (Japanese straw sandals), or in sandals made from a single piece of leather, they would have received a variety of information from their feet, knees, and ankles, just by walking on the ground. On the subject of walking, the sense of direction is perhaps one of the most detached for the modern person. And a sense of distance. Beyond good or bad, our senses are completely different. If it “takes 5 hours by car”, we feel that it’s a little far (leaving aside individual differences). Until the beginning of the modern age, however, "three days on foot" was not considered a long journey. And in any era, people were indeed often traveling long distances on foot. Naturally, their sense of acceptance towards time would have been completely different.

    Every single one of these people would be practically like a psychic in today's society. To what extent can we imagine the “perception” of such people?

    Nagano Prefecture is a mountainous area. While mountains that can be crossed by passes are fine, the Northern and Southern Alps are complete barriers that divide the region. The Chikuma river, Saigawa water system, and Tenryu river. Three vast valleys, caused by three great rivers. And a single, small, lake basin. This is the main environment that forms Nagano Prefecture. Each region is separated by mountainous terrain, and connected by countless mountain passes. Momentum, strategic regions for transportation, and terminal locations are established naturally. And even in the midst of mountainous terrain, people live. It is only inconvenient through the perception of modern people, since mountains are rich in resources and less prone to flooding (there was also the knowledge to avoid places where landslides could occur). They lived a life of plenty, traveling to and from town on a daily basis.

    If there is any unique quality to the land of Nagano Prefecture, it may have been generated by this balance between discontinuity and continuity.
    The Jomon people, watching Fuji's plumes of smoke from the foot of Mt. Yatsugatake, must have traveled for a variety of reasons. Farther for a greater purpose. For lesser purposes, not even crossing the mountain pass. And so, deviations in culture diffusion arise.

    Like the foot of Mt. Yatsugatake in the Middle Jomon period.
    Like Zenkoji Temple.
    Like Suwa-taisha Shrine.

    What comes through the pass settles into a melting pot, a base, from which those influences cross the pass once again.

    Civilization is the creation of a social structure by human hands. It is built upon science and reason.
    And thought and faith are attempts by humans, to grasp how the world works.

    While moving, staying, thinking, and communicating. These people who created mysterious patterns for a thousand years - how did they perceive the world? How did they feel about the animals and plants they coexisted with? What did they feel towards the mountains, the rivers, the sea, the sky, the sun, the moon, and the stars? Without a doubt, it is impossible to decipher completely the "language-like" code of the Jomon people. But even so, seeing the dynamic patterns. Staring at the intersecting codes. What, and how far, can we imagine?

    Photography: Masaru Tatsuki/ Words: Michiho Ishino/ Edit: Runa Anzai (kontakt)/ Translation: May Kinnersly

  • My own Jomon 11.01.2022

    Dreams of a white snake, the tulips that grandmother flowered, fluffy moss blankets the surface of the rocks.

    Within the journey of Maiko Kurogouchi’s hometown, from the scenery or the smell of air, to the footprints of the people in the area, the memories from her childhood are brought back.

    The Jomon Period, it is said that people focused on spirituality rather than production or function, portraying hopes of prayer or stories onto its pottery. In similar, the three-ply woven fabric embeds the fragments of memories and sense of nostalgia of Maiko’s hometown into primitive patterns.

    As its name implies, the three-ply weave is a fabric where three different strings are overlapped and woven. Silk is used as the warp giving an elegant lust, cupra for weft, and in the middle a polyester woolly called ‘anko’ is chosen. Once woven, hot steam is applied on the fabric, the woolly thread shrinks, and a moss like fluff is created.

    Twisted threads are pressed against the surface of the earthenware, creating patterns of the Jomon pottery. The pleasant ruggedness yet bold curves are expressed by Maiko’s design through jacquard. As the pattern also is important in connecting the threads, while drawing beautiful curves, it is essential to have a complex plan that calculates the stability of the fabric. Furthermore, in creating the fluff and thickness a thicker thread is used, increasing its complexity. For this collection, a factory renowned for creating silk neckties was chosen, to make this intricate complex technique possible. Thus, an ideal pattern and dimensional fabric with lightness was created.

    The finished fabric is then turned into a cocoon silhouetted coat, jacket or skirt. The garments composed of elegant curves, are as if combined with the earthenware of its time.

    Photography: Masaru Tatsuki / Words & Edit: Runa Anzai (kontakt) / Translation: Shimon Miyamoto

  • Jomon – The codes, land and the spirituality 10.21.2022

    Photography: Masaru Tatsuki/ Words: Michiho Ishino/ Edit: Runa Anzai (kontakt)

  • Landscape reimagined 10.06.2022

    Perseverance, toughness.

    When one visits the craftsman responsible for knit jacquards of Mame Kurogouchi, these are the words that come to mind. Furthermore, it became clear as to why many designers, including Maiko Kurogouchi herself, trusts the craftsman.

    This season's key item, the landscape knit, is based on woven art pieces of a lady artist Maiko Kurogouchi met in Hakuba Nagano. The artist hand weaves the beautiful scenery of Hakuba, and Maiko Kurogouchi decided to precisely represent this into knitwear out of adoration and resonance towards the artist and her work. This is a first for Maiko Kurogouchi, to take another artist's piece and include it into her design.

    Out of the artworks, four woven art pieces that capture the changing of the four seasons were chosen. Works representing summer and winter are created in a factory in Niigata. Handwoven, the fluctuation of linear patterns brings a unique warmth and layers of texture. As if one can sense the smell, temperature, or atmosphere of the landscape, rich colors of the scenery are applied to the jacquard.

    Using an original program, the process of weaving the scenery is the start as well as the heart of the knitwear, requiring rich experience and bold ideas than any other process, combined with delicate techniques and time, such as the process of replicating the free lines of the designed artwork onto the squares of the canvas. The organic lines of the artwork are then converted geometrically, while adjusting the balance to leave a natural feel to the design. It is a process so intricate, that it is as if the maestro of the orchestra is also asked to join in playing instruments. This process is where the knowledge and skills of the craftsman come to light.

    The thread used is a combination of multiple threads twisted, and by using this as one, while usually only able to use six threads to express its colors the process expands the use of colors. As the design is intricate yet delicate, slowly and carefully these pieces are woven, limited to one and a half pieces a day.

    Through a complex process the landscape knit is created. The winter scenery, the pile of snow in the forest of Hakuba creates a tunnel and the lodge visible in front is portrayed by using concave threads.

    For the summer scenery, the highlands lily garden is portrayed on the body of the canvas. On the knitted sleeves are handmade lily motifs. Each flower petal is woven differently, to give a natural blossom, which are then gently woven onto the body.

    The scenery portrayed by the artist’s own hands, whom Maiko Kurogouchi adores, is now created into garments using advanced technique. The distinct and detailed expression of the art piece is re-created through the hands, perception, and passion of one.

    Learning from the gentle eyes of the craftsman.

    Photography: Yusuke Yamatani / Words & Edit: Runa Anzai (kontakt) /Translation: Shimon Miyamoto

  • The colors of mountains 09.15.2022

    As if an Impressionists painting, various colors blend together, leaving no outline to its shape. As Maiko Kurogouchi sketches the mountains of Nagano, she realizes there exists various color palettes, from trees and rocks, the sky to the earth all extend over a gradation of colors. The alpaca loop cut expresses the scenery of the mountains of Nagano using textiles.

    ‘Conveying nature’s blessing within each string’

    The palettes inspired from Nagano’s nature are dyed into 9 different thread loops. Even from the eye of a well-experienced craftsman, incorporating multiple colors at once are deemed rare, these threads woven using a rapier loom, transforming into one fabric.

    The fabric is planned in detail so each color woven together creates a random gradation, is washed multiple times, allowing to meld together. Thereafter, the fabric is brushed over and over, bringing a fluffy yet silky quality known to the alpaca.

    Thread to thread, color to color. As the process moves with time, the distinct difference between slowly fades, the scenery of faint fog covering the mountain appears. An iconic creation of this season, the alpaca loop cut fabric transforms into a relaxed-fit coat and oversize jacket, softly joining the faintness between nature and people.

    Photography: Elena Tutatchikova / Words & Edit: Runa Anzai (kontakt) /Translation: Shimon Miyamoto

  • The land of recollection 09.07.2022

    ‘May this beautiful scenery and rich cultures last forever.’

    The sublime mountains watching over the Shinshu area from long ago, when one comes forth hands naturally come together.

    The fragments of Jomon pottery and obsidian encountered in late Autumn in Nagano, the grass and moss spreading on the surface showing different expressions on every visit. And the people cultivating the lands, are also gifts from nature by the vast land and grandeur mountains.

    Perhaps, the people in the Jomon period had also viewed the beautiful scenery in which they left records of praise and gratitude towards nature onto the patterns of pottery.

    As one expands one’s imagination with the breeze, in front appears a view of homeland still unknown, the mountains slowly disentangle into various colours of thread. Spinning these threads, one ponders what to weave, ringing in the last journey of Land.

    Photography: Masaru Tatsuki / Words & Edit: Runa Anzai (kontakt) /Translation: Shimon Miyamoto