Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Japanese Family Crests and Designing for Temari

Want to add meaning to your temari designs?  Need inspiration on arrangement of stitched motifs? The Elements of Japanese Design, A Handbook of Family Crests, Heraldry & Symbolism by John Dower has been one of my best sources. And we all know every artist needs her sources, right?

"The Elements of Japanese Design is a library of traditional Japanese design motifs in the form of more than 2,700 family crests (mon) compiled and drawn by a Kyoto publisher and bookseller early in the twentieth century, and selected and interpreted by John Dower, a leading American scholar of Japan.

First used for identification on the battlefield beginning in the twelfth century, mon developed into symbols of family pride and fortune and quintessential expressions of the Japanese design sensibility—especially in their economy of means, exquisite detailing, and boldness of composition. The motifs employed in these family crests are also a fascinating window into the symbolic system of traditional Japan, which drew from a rich palette of natural phenomena, plants, animals, abstract devices, and man-made objects."  (from the publisher)

Although the book was first published in 1971, it will always be valuable as a historical reference for any artist, including temari stitchers, who wish to add meaning to their work and be inspired by the arrangement of motifs within the circular mon. I am almost overwhelmed by the numerous mon for each topic. For example, bamboo (take) is represented by almost sixty different mon!

"Versatile, graceful, and auspicious, from ancient times bamboo has played an extraordinarily large role in Japan. Originally brought from China to grace the gardens of the Japanese nobility, approximately 150 varieties are now estimated to exist in the country. The strength and flexibility of bamboo has taken it far from the nobility's gardens over the centuries: fences, lattices, ladders, and pipes; arrows and spears; flutes and writing brushes; baskets, brooms, hats, and sieves are merely a few of its daily guises.

The bamboo has admirable connotations....and its endurance throughout the seasons has caused it to be associated with such virtues as constancy, integrity, and honor."

A simple band of thread wrapped around the temari can represent bamboo. Do you know someone who has these virtues (constancy, integrity, and honor)? Why not make a temari for them and include bamboo in the design?