Saturday, July 11, 2009

Teppachi Morikago: Part 2

Tuesday this past week was Tanabata--7/7, the day when lovers unite. One of the students convinced the director to let us cut a bamboo tree and decorate it--a custom that up until a few decades ago was popular but isn't so much nowadays, so I hear. (See Tanabata Story and Customs on Wikipedia.) We each decorated the bamboo with our own rectangular strip of colored paper, called tanzaku (短冊). The wish I wrote on my paper was: 腰が素直に曲がるようになりますように, which means "I hope my hips become more flexible," in reference to the pain I experience daily from sitting cross-legged and in seiza all day. Some other students also decorated it with model balloons and other papers of different shapes. It's usually customary to float the entire thing down a river once Tanabata is over, or burn it, but our bamboo was drenched by the following day's rain and was disposed of soon thereafter. The whole practice of decorating a large plant with colorful ornaments and wishing for something reminded me of Christmas.

Rinko-awase 輪弧合わせ
Back to the Teppachi. So with all three separate parts prepared and ready--two wheel weaves (輪弧編み) and one diamond twill weave (桝網代) cut into a circle--we can now form the base and walls of the bowl. Before combining the two wheels, it's actually best to first even the spacing between the strips on each wheel so that the strips on one wheel fall pleasantly in line with the space between the strips on the other wheel. Once this is done, the circular twill weave is sandwiched between the two wheels, with a heavy weight placed on all three layers to keep their centers from straying. What follows is a rationally simple but technically complicated process of interweaving two wheels (rinko-awase, "combining wheels"), which have a total of 80 strips. The first two steps are the most confusing. The first is called pea-zukuri ("making pairs", ペア作り) and the second is called pea-wake ("separating pairs", ペア分け). In the first step a strip from the bottom wheel is pulled up to meet with one of the strips on the top wheel so that each strip has a mate. On the diagram below, the blue arrow points to where a pair of strips (marked with red lines) are made. In the second step, the pairs are made to pass over one intersecting strip and then separated by weaving them under the next intersecting strips, but by staggering them (yellow arrow).

Once pairs are made and separated the rest of the weaving process is relatively simple, because at this point all 80 strips overlap each other and alternate regularly along the entire circumference. First, each strip is woven so that it passes over three intersecting strips and then goes under the fourth; this is called san-bon tobi, or san-gen tobi ("jumping three strips", 3本飛び/3間飛び). This step is repeated, and is followed by four repetitions of ni-hon tobi (2本飛び). Once these steps are completed, the strips are pressed closer together and carefully arranged so the empty holes become nicely shaped diamonds.

Hari-dowa 張り胴輪の取り付け
The six weaving steps I just described form the bottom to middle part of the bowl's body. The entire weave at this point naturally takes on a shallow funnel shape (top and bottom views shown above); it's more a plate than a bowl. Next, a belt-like loop called a hari-dowa ("abdomen ring")--similar to the inner and outer rim of the Mutsume Morikago and made the same way--is placed between the strips. This forces the strips to assume a tighter diameter, making them stand.

The strips, as you can see, weave themselves around the hari-dowa, in this case by skipping five strips (go-hon tobi, 5本飛び). The height of the hari-dowa should be the same at all points around the bowl--that is, if the strips were properly spaced before attaching it. After the hari-dowa is attached and go-hon tobi completed, the strips are woven again through two ni-hon tobi and one san-bon tobi, and the spacing evened. Finally, the shorter strips (moving diagonally from bottom right to top left) are pressed together at the top so that the spacing between them fades to zero, a procedure called kata-jime ("closing one side", 片締め). This will later become part of the bowl's rim, which I'll explain in the next post.