Last summer text writer Laura van Mourik nominated me for the next Boekblad column “De keuze van…”. It had to be a published book, which was easy to buy. A few weeks before I knew I had to write this column I saw a beautiful photobook. The spectacular cover immediately caught my attention. The title and an abstract linear pattern have been embossed in the cover paper which has a subtle relief so it looks like fabric. The book has a rather challenging name: ‘Motsure Hotsure Tsumugu’ of photographer Marco van Duyvendijk.
This photobook tells the story of the kimonos of the sub-tropical Japanese island Amami Oshima. Once hundreds of thousands of fine handmade silk kimonos were made here, but nowadays the demand is not so big anymore and only a small number of highly skilled craftsmen create these formal garments. The photos of Marco van Duyvendijk show the labor-intensive process of dying and weaving. The natural dye colors are exceptional. Amami Oshima is well know for the use of mud dying, but indigo-dying is also used frequently. The mud-dying technique is very intensive; the silk has to be dipped twenty times in natural dye made from the pulp of a local plum tree. After the dipping the paint specialist washes it for one hour in iron-rich muddy water. The chemical reaction creates the characteristic red dark colour.
Although the subject of the book is interesting enough to catch the attention, the design of this book is also stunning. Like I wrote before, the cover is very tactile, you just have to touch it! The cover has both on the front as at the back an extra wrapper which contains two mini-booklets. These booklets are simply connected to the main-cover with a blue pamphlet stitch. The cover of the first mini-booklet shows a fabric pattern and all the information about the book and the photos can be read in here. For example the title, which is only on the cover in Japanese. The booklet at the back features reproductions of paintings by Haruka, the translator and travelling companion of Marco van Duyvendijk.
This photobook is about a quiet place in an ever-changing world. At this extraordinary island full of craft, knowledge and dedication, it takes thirty steps to get from a white silk thread to a finished kimono. It can take almost a year from start to finish to make a kimono…