February 16, 2021

About the School: Tsuzure-Ori 1 | What Makes the Tsuzure-Ori (Tapestry Weaving) at KTS Special?

This is the Tsuzure-Ori (tapestry weaving) segment of a series introducing Kawashima Textile School (KTS). In this segment we will introduce what the school's tsuzure-ori is today, through looking at the foundation of the school's tsuzure-ori, an interview with the teacher, voices from workshop participants from overseas, and an interview with a graduate who now works as a tsuzure-ori craftsperson. Part 1 is about the tsuzure-ori at KTS.

Tsuzure-ori is a weaving technique that is popular around the world, known as "tapestry weaving." In Japan, it is called "tsuzure-ori," and has evolved in a unique way in the Nishijin district of Kyoto, through production of obi, kimono accessories, and in later years, stage curtains. Tsuzure-ori is a traditional weaving technique which the founder of the school, Kawashima Textile Manufacturers Ltd. (now Kawashima Selkon Textiles Co.,Ltd.), specializes in, and is also one of the pillars of the school.

Underlying that is the depth of the history of tsuzure-ori that started at Kawashima Textiles Manufacturers. Back in the 19th century, second generation president Jimbei Kawashima II traveled to Europe and stayed at Manufacture des Gobelins (The Gobelins Manufactory) for several days. He noticed that the techniques used in weaving Gobelin tapestries were the same as those used in Japanese tsuzure-ori, and was inspired, with the idea that great results could be achieved by making the most of delicate Japanese handwork. By realizing the true value of tsuzure-ori, he improved the manufacturing method and designs, and in addition to obi, expanded the tsuzure-ori product line with interior decoration fabric and stage curtains, devised a unique gradation technique, developing tsuzure-ori into delicate and artistic textiles.

Those traditional skills of tsuzure-ori have been passed on to the school. Ikuo Takamuki, who had taught over 20 years since the opening of KTS (1973), had been a tsuzure-ori craftsperson at Kawashima Textile Manufacturers. The textbook he created to "accumulate techniques" and "share the information that had been handed down" are still incorporated in the classes today. In addition to such traditional skills, at the school, each student's artistic expression is valued, and the fact that they can create their work from both perspectives is a characteristic of the tsuzure-ori at KTS.

The weaving sample and explanatory drawing of the cartoon (the design placed underneath the warp for the weaver to use as a guide) that Takamuki sensei designed and made for his classes. The fact that it covers the basics, and that students can learn the techniques step by step in this one piece, is why it has been handed down with care as teaching material, and is still made use of in classes today, after more than 40 years.
In the tsuzure-ori classes in the Professional Course, students can learn systematically, starting from basic techniques, to preparing cartoons and acquiring picturesque weaving skills through their individual project, to a group project creating a tapestry for daycare centers and elderly care facilities. Workshops are held regularly. There is a beginners’ course in which students make a frame loom and weave small tapestry pieces on it, and a basic course using a Nishijin tapestry loom. There are also workshops with an interpreter, for groups from overseas, organized according to skill levels and experience. The contents of hand weaving taught at the school has changed in various ways according to the times, but even so, the basics of tsuzure-ori has continued to be taught without interruption. Even the looms, which are special tsuzure-ori looms used by the Nishijin craftspeople, have continued to be used.

Additionally, what is the feature of making artwork at the school, which differs from making products at the company? It is to have the opportunity to expand one’s potential, by using the space, and time, to take on challenges. The degree of freedom and profoundness of tsuzure-ori becomes visible precisely because one develops their expression ability on a foundation of solid skills, and is still popular among students today. There is a group of artists who continue to visit from overseas, who say they are inspired by, and find value in the time and space to immerse themselves in weaving at KTS in Kyoto, and the experience of weaving on traditional Nishijin-style tsuzure looms.

The depth of tradition and the space to take on challenges. Wide, and profound. The fact that the school has a solid foundation, on which students can realize that about tsuzure-ori, is what makes the tsuzure-ori at KTS special.

"A large tsuzure loom in the Meiji era (1868-1912), which made large pieces possible. This was improved and devised by Jimbei Kawashima II, who was inspired by Gobelin weave. (Sugimoto 116)"
Jimbei Kawashima II toured silk weaving factories in Lyon, France, and stayed at Manufacture des Gobelins (The Gobelins Manufactory) in Paris, for several days. There, he noticed that the techniques used in Gobelin weave, such as how the weft was woven in so as to hide the warp, how the weft yarn would be turned back in the opposite direction without passing the whole width of the warp following the cartoon to create a pattern, was the same as Japanese tsuzure-ori.

Works Cited
Takamuki, Ikuo. 「綴織あれこれ」『SHUTTLE かよい杼染織技法の公開』 [Notes on Tsuzure-Ori] [SHUTTLE Kayoi-Hi Sharing Dyeing and Weaving Techniques]. Kawashima Shuttle Club, 1987. pp60-73
Sugimoto, Masatoshi. 「錬技抄」川島織物一四五年史 [Rengishō Kawashima Textile Manufacturers 145 Year History]. Kawashima Textile Manufacturers Ltd., 1989. pp103-14, 116
Topic Column, LETTER FROM KAWASHIMA TEXTILE SCHOOL No. 34 July-August 1993. Kawashima Textile School, 1993.