An unusul weave carpet by pioneering artist Tatsumura Heizo replicating by technique a piece from Shosoin Imperial Repository dating from the early 20th century. A label reading: Made by Tatsumura Heizo, Bird and Plum Patterned from the Shosoin Repository (Tatsumura Heizo Sei, Shosoin Go Butsumon Kacho Umehana Moyo) is attached to the underside. It is 96 x 175 cm (38 x 69 inches) and comes in an old age-darkened kiri-wood box. As the industrial revolution climaxed in Japan in the opening years of the 20th century, along with it came a renewed interest in ancient things, things lost, and techniques. The Shosoin, the great repository in Nara, opened its doors to certain craftsmen who were leaders in their fields, and the items they attempted to reproduce, often using the techniques imagined available at the original time of production, were highly collectable.
Tatsumura Heizo (1876-1962) is considered to be the person who brought textiles from a craft into the domain of art in Japan. Born in Osaka the grandson of a currency exchange merchant. Heizo was brought up in an environment rich with fine art and immersed in traditional culture. By the time he entered the Osaka Commercial School (Osaka City University), he was composing poetry under the name of "Seppa.". However tragedy struck, and his father died when Heizo was 16 triggering a decline of the family business. So Heizo left school to begin working in the Kimono trade in Kyotos Nishijin. He was first occupied in sales but, gradually began to study weaving techniques, and sought to make the process more efficient. In 1894, at age 18, Heizo became an independent textile manufacturer. It was around 1921 that Heizo began to recreate ancient textiles from the 7th and 8th centuries, found in the Shosoin Repository and the Horyuji Temple. The very modem Tatsumura chose the Jacquard mechanism as his tool but at the same time he believed in the importance of always going back to original ancient textiles and to thoroughly research them and their original methods of produciton. His strong conviction to learn from the past became especially important in order to understand and recreate the weaving techniques of the highly intricate warp-faced compound weave which was born in ancient China and lost around the Tang Period (A.D. 618 -906). He would devote his life to both progress in modern techniques, and in reviving lost techniques through research and reproduction. He exhibited with the Nitten National Exhibition among others. For his lifetime of devotion to traditional crafts he was awarded the Japan Art Academy Prize in 1956, and the Imperial He was awarded Shiju-hosho ( Medal of Honor with the Purple Ribbon) in 1958. Work by him is held in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia