I own the sin of covetnous. I don’t often see something I really feel would make my life more satisfying, more fulfilling, so it comes with a degree of surprise the depth of my longing for these examples of the Japanese craft of netsuke.
Netsuke is a uniquely Japanese art form. It is strange that there is little known about the creation of the art form dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, becoming more usual in the 17th century. The translation of ‘netsuke’ is ‘ attached to the root’, and originated from the need to secure small containers within the kimonos worn by the Japanese, as the garments did not contain pockets. Thus the netsuke were the fasteners that secured the cord at the top of the sash. This ingenious solution to carrying about the requisites became an aesthetic expression of identity, and individual netsuke could identify status amongst the wealthy. What I find curious is the way in which the tradition clearly attracted patronage, since there are objects of exquisite craftmanship, and yet the collections of netsuke are mainly held outside of Japan. The popularity for them within Japan clearly took a dive when more modern , practical garments replaced the kimono, but the intrinsic beauty of individual pieces led to collections being made mainly in Europe and America. I love the stories the netsuke hold, the subjects that are lovingly carved, the emotions they reflect. Some are showing intricate carving detail that must have taken such perseverance and patience. They show me how wonderful a thing it is, to take time and care over an inconsequential object close to a button in function, transient, yet still worthy of craftmanship, of love.
These are some I found particularly appealing, and how I would love to start a collection of my own. There is something about the world of miniature that has attracted me since being knee high to a grasshopper myself, perhaps the illusion of control, who knows. I loved the ‘Borrowers’ as a girl, and see this penchant for netsuke as a continuation of that enchantment with tiny, weeny things. Like charms, love charms too. Oh , and earrings that are wee imitations of things. there’s a pattern here.