This quilt is made out of an old Japanese nobori banner probably from the Meiji period (1868-1912). The upper part of the banner, where the family crest (Mon) is dyed, was used for the border and two figures were sewn together side by side. The brown fabrics on each side of the design are the reverse side of an old obi sash. All hand-sewn except for the straight line where the panels were put together.
The design is of two lucky gods from the The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan (SHICHI FUKU JIN); Ebisu on the left and Daikoku on the right. Ebisu, who is carrying a giant 'tai' fish (red sea bream) on his shoulder, has been the fishermen’s god from the old days of wishing for good crops from the ocean. 'Mede-tai' is a word used to express happiness in the Japanese language. There would be no feast without the tai fish even today in the traditional weddings or for New Years. Daikoku, with his magic mallet in hand, symbolizes wealth as he is often shown standing on bags of rice. With rice and fish, they are to bring wealth and prosperity. The mascot figures of Ebisu and Daikoku are often paired together and placed in small Kamidana shelves (offering food to god) or show windows of stores. They are shown here standing in the waves of the ocean and rice field.
This nobori banner was hand dyed with the technique called Tsutsugaki-zome (paste resist dye on cotton). Each colored area is outlined with paste put in a corn shaped tube (tsutsu) to stop the colors from bleeding. The artist can work with the dye easily, changing the colors and shades within the lines.
The quilt artist is Ms. Fusako Saito from Japan. Her name and address is stitched on the back. I was very lucky to be able to contact her. This quilt was entered in a quilt show in San Francisco and won an award (I forgot to ask her which award). It is made ready to be hung on a wall (see photo #12). Though she is now retired from quilting, she has explained to me the difficulty that she faced quilting this work and finding the right old patchwork cloths - they were purchased in Kyoto, a long distance from her home. She also expressed the current scarcity (impossible now, she said) of good quality, old nobori banners.
This is a work that took her a full year. This tapestry is one very good example of new art being created by preserving old art. I looked at this quilt again after the end of my work; it has a beautiful antique look that actually looks better than the photos. The price is modest considering its quality.
70 1/2 inches x 70 1/2 inches