Sunday, February 15, 2009

Noshi Quilt

I have been meaning to post a photo of this quilt for a while, and a recent conversation with some friends over Japanese themed quilt ideas prompted me to finally get the photo taken and share this quilt with everyone.

I can't take credit for this one - this was a gift to me shortly before leaving Japan in 1993. It was presented to me by a friend of a friend - and when I saw the amount of hand work that went into this quilt I was floored. I knew the artist - but not well - and her generosity with this gift blew me away.

The noshi ribbons are all hand appliqued. The ties are all hand embroidery. The piecing I believe is hand done - and the quilting is all by hand as well.

For many many years this quilt languished in my trunk - I just did not know how or where I wanted to display it. It was finally hung on our bedroom wall about 6 months ago - using a curtain rod and clips - and I rotate it every month 90 degrees to avoid it stretching. The beauty of this design is that it is equally stunning no matter which way it is hung (currently I think it is "upside down" as the artist's signature is at the top left and upside down)

For those that don't know the significance of "noshi" I have copied some background information below:

"Noshi" is said to have been a contracted word for "noshi-awabi", which is made by shaving a shelled awabi (abalone) into ribbons and drying them in the sun. Since a long time ago, though we cannot clearly tell when it takes its rise, Japan has had a custom of attaching "noshi-awabi" when people send gifts or congratulatory presents to others.

The reason for attaching a noshi was, according to some folklore researchers, to symbolize the immunity to evil things: the sender's pure mind and the harmlessness of the gift. In the past, Japanese people seldom ate animal products and even avoided them on sorrowful occasions such as mourning. Animal products were associated with the happy events, and as a representative of them, noshi-awabi, once perceived as "the best gift", were attached to the gift they send to show their goodwill. In addition, there is a legend that awabi provides perpetual youth and longevity. That might have also affected the rise of this custom.

Today, the original significance of noshi-awabi has been lost, but the custom survives. A typical noshi is composed of a narrow piece of yellow paper, which is a substitute for noshi-awabi, folded in a special way in a piece of white-and-red paper to form a hexagon. Very often, noshi is replaced by a "noshi-gami", a piece of paper on which an image of noshi is printed, or the word "no-shi" in hiragana (the Japanese syllabary) are printed. We use a noshi for a happy event, not for a sorrowful one, just as in the past.

Louis Frederic, translated by Kathe Roth, Japan encyclopedia, Cambridge, Mass. /London, 2002
Ajio Fukuda et al., Nihon Minzoku Daijiten, Tokyo, 2000


jillquilts said...

That is absolutely stunning! What a fantastic gift!

Jen said...

Wow!! I'm floored. There'ss a japanese quilt book out right now (totally unrelated to your post) that has me facinated.