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Mottainai – Essence of Things

This is a most incredible exhibit! Steph and I took it in this afternoon. We so wanted to touch everything. The exhibit is on through the week-end at the Portland Japanese Garden. The Mottainai exhibition consists of objects hand-made by the wives of farmers, fishermen and lumbermen in rural communities in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The earlier pieces are lovingly patched and stitched over and over for reuse. The later objects are fabric and garments made from natural fibers like hemp, ramie, wisteria, elm, paper and kudzu.

I will just post some photos with comments where I remember something.

The first set of photos are of boro cloth – which is older cloth and garments that are patched and stitched.

Boro Apron.


If you click on this sign, you can read about sakiori. Sakiori is derived from the saki, meaning tear and ori for weave. The sakiori cloth uses torn strips of cloth for the weft.

This is a gorgeous garment  woven from ramie.

This piece of fabric covered a seat which was over a brazier for heat. The heat scorched the center of the fabric and it has been patched and mended many times for reuse.

We saw some very utilitarian sashiko. Most of what I have previously seen has been very decorative.

Kudzu fibers!!

Paper undergarment.

Paper garment.


Indigo dyed paper garment.

The following pieces are elm or linden tree fibers.


This is wisteria!! (I think)


Not sure what this is – just some patched and stitched fabric and balls of fibers.

It was just a lovely, lovely and humbling exhibit.

At the gift shop, I bought a pack of linen squares. I am not sure what I will do with them – maybe just fondle them.

I also bought the catalog, which I think is available at the online store, here.

Before heading to the garden, the whole family had lunch at Sushi Land for Miles’ birthday. He loves this place because the food comes around on a conveyer belt and he can grab whatever he wants.


Here is a sweet photo of Mia with her Dad.

I must get a good night’s sleep so that I can do all the holiday prep work tomorrow to load in the car for our drive down to Smith River, which is on the coast just south of Oregon. Scooter is going to the groomer to get all pretty for his first vacation with us.

5 Responses to “Mottainai – Essence of Things”

  1. Bonnie says:

    Thanks for putting this show on your blog. I made it to the exhibit on Friday and was really glad I made the effort to get there. A wonderful show!

  2. reva says:

    I knew Mottainai would slip away if I didn’t make a point of going to see it, so that’s what I did on Saturday — and from there to the Wild Arts Festival, which I’ve never managed to get to before because we’ve always had a houseful of visitors in the week leading up to Thanksgiving. This year our guest (singular) didn’t arrive til yesterday, so I had a little more freedom. It really was an extraordinary show.

    Hope you have a great holiday.

  3. Kristin L says:


    Have a great holiday trip.

  4. Connie Rose says:

    What a fabulous exhibit, thanks for sharing photos. Happy 10th to Miles. And Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Hope you have a wonderful time in far-northern CA for the holiday!

  5. Karoda says:

    forget touching, i want to wear them! Enjoy your vacation ahead!