− Ako Dantsu studio −
Ako city is located on the Setouchi Sea coast of western Japan, and it had once prospered as a center of salt production. Ako Dantsu is a handmade cotton rug, which have been manufactured in this small seaside town from the Edo period.
Once, there was one woman named “Kojima Naka” here. She -a wife of antique art dealer- got fascinated by Chinese carpets she saw in Sanuki on Shikoku island, and after spending 26 years researching about the technology of their production, she completed the first Ako Dantsu rug.
There used to be several Ako Dantsu factories here in the Meiji period (1868~1912), and up to 10,000 rugs were produced per year. However, due to limitations on cotton during World WarⅡ, many weavers went out of business, and after the war there was only one manufacturer left.
At the beginning of the Heisei period (1989~2019), a workshop was held led by Ms. Sakaguchi Kirie who is said to have been the last Ako Dantsu weaver to possess the skill. Presently, her disciples are inheriting that technology, and the weaving tradition is continuing.
Ako Dantsu that have the features not found in other production areas. Perhaps, Ms. Kojima Naka who was the founder repeated trial and error to reproduce a beautiful foreign rug without even knowing how to weave rugs? The technology of weaving Ako Dantsu is infused with the enthusiasm and inspiration of the woman who created them.
Although foreign carpets are mainly made of wool, for Ako Dantsu cotton yarn is used for all of its warp, weft and colored yarns. The Banshu region in which Ako is located was once a large production area for cotton. For the Japanese people, cotton is the most familiar and suitable material.
For the weaving process of carpets such as Persian carpets, looms with vertical warps are used, but Ako Dantsu is woven using a large horizontal handloom (takabata). It is a common machine used for weaving kimono fabrics, but it is very rare for it to be used for carpet weaving.
The tension and durability of Ako Dantsu, which are the characteristic features, are achieved by applying glue. Weaving is done while tensioning the dried warps with glue rubbed into them in advance and wefts are threaded through while not letting the rubbed in glue go dry. Finally, water is used to dissolve the dried glue; the carpet is put under the sun and shaped using the so-called "Shikinoshi (means stretching)" procedure.
Bent shears are a handheld tool with an angle at the blades. The "Tsumi (means picking)" procedure performed using these shears is the most important feature of Ako Dantsu that produces a smooth and three-dimensional finish. Dantsu, for which careful "picking" procedures such as thread-picking, base-picking, finish-picking were performed, display the aesthetics, the temperament and masters' thoughts towards their works.
I have seen hundreds of old Dantsu so far. As I kept looking at threads of nearly 100-year old Dantsu, I can say that their indigo color has gotten more beautiful and intense over time. In the studio Mutsuki, we use indigo and natural dyed yarn for create new Dantsu rugs and are making something that people can continue using while enjoying the change colors over time.
These antique rugs are from the Meiji (1868~1912), Taisho (1912~1926), early Showa (1926~1989) periods when Ako Dantsu was made in large numbers. By washing, spreading and shaping, stain removing, and picking which are the techniques unique to Dantsu weaver, we provide care so that old rugs can be used comfortably.
Born on June, 1983
From Kobe, currently in Himeji, Japan
International Christian University, Tokyo (2008)
After working on clothing and industry promotion, I met Ako Dantsu.
After studying with Setsuko Negoro, I became independent in 2019 and set up a studio Mutsuki in seaside of Ako.
June is the birth month for things.
The land breathes heavily.
Standing under a tree and listening
I hear a faint whisper.
As if cows are eating
And the trees and grass are growing
While making noises.