Friday, February 26, 2010

家紋:kamon, meaning "family crest"

I have been wanting to write about these forever. :D

家紋:かもん、kamon, meaning "house" (家) + "crest" or "coat of arms" (紋)

Alternative terms include:
紋章:もんしょう、monshou, "coat of arms badge"
紋所:もんどころ、"coat of arms place" (?)
...or simply mon in conversation.

some famous rulers and their family crests; the bottom right crest is that of the Tokugawa family

If you have any sustained interest in Japan, you've likely seen kamon symbols somewhere before. They are embroidered or dyed on the chest of formal kimono, on the eaves of traditional roofing, printed on noren curtains, on flags of temples and shrines, and can generally be spotted in many other places.

on a roof peak

on formal kimono 

this curtain at a jinja (Shinto shrine) displays the kamon of two families

the "dove" mon at Morooka Kumano Jinja (師岡熊野神社)

lanterns painted with kamon

shirts decorated with kamon are a popular item with the younger generations: which family's kamon they display is not necessarily important...

...while keychains with one's family mon are popular among the middle generations; many services exist in Japan that will personalize lighters, cellphones, portable game systems, etc. with any mon you like

a kamon on a public building, in this case a community meeting center

a chrysanthemum kamon appears on the Japanese passport; the 16-petal chrysanthemum crest is a symbol of Japan as a sovereign nation

Kamon symbols, much like the lions and eagles of heraldry, are powerful graphic elements. Unlike western heraldry, however, kamon are uncomplicated and geometric. They were originally simplified by the constraints under which they were designed, used, and cataloged.

All traditional kamon are plain black and white, with no intermediate tones or shading. This two-tone limit makes them much easier to reproduce in a variety of media, as well as bold enough to be seen clearly on flags across the ancient battlefield. Most kamon are also round, and thus all the easier to fit on variously-shaped surfaces and items. Lastly, the vast majority of kamon have one or more axes of symmetry, sometimes as many as 14 or 16.

the kamon of the Imperial Family of Japan 十六弁八重表菊紋, or jyuurokuben-yae-hyou-kiku-mon, "16-petal double layer displayed chrysanthemum crest"

Common motifs found in traditional kamon include flowers, leaves, birds, turtles, butterflies, kanji, or representational abstract shapes, but there are always exceptions.

Likewise, many kamon rely on the same popular icon, but present it in markedly different ways to distinguish each from the other. Closely related kamon may (but do not always) belong to offspring of a famous family or separate families who established themselves in similar professions.

selected kamon variations on the kikyou (Chinese bellflower)

If you have a traditional Japanese name, there are books and websites whereby you can look up your family's kamon symbol. Some people even design an original kamon to represent their own family in modern times. I had a student who made his own stamp of a kamon with a Super Famicom controller ringed by its cord... he used it on his homework. :3

If you like history, this article on Epoch Times gives a brief overview of the origins of the kamon system. There are also a few modern, for-fun Kamon Generators by Ayataka beverage group - you give your name and birthdate, and they assign you an original kamon (you'll need Japanese text enabled on your machine to use the input form).

a modern kamon design, appropriate for Arizona :3

Here are some sites that provide a catalogue of the traditional kamon:

Kamon Shijou (Kamon Marketplace by BBPlus)
You can search by keyword, browse by subject, or browse alphabetically (hiraganically?) by kamon name. (You can also order stickers, keychains, pins, and other goods with any kamon you like... if you know how to navigate in Japanese.)

Japanese Clip Art
An English site with a selection of the more famous kamon (and other images) for free download. Yay!

Kamon Japan
A site that offers display plaques and castings with the kamon of famous rulers... has adorable little illustrations of those rulers, too. XD

楽しみして、ね! ^_^

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rawr. (a day late)

Okay, NOW it's 2010. Happy Chinese New Year of the Tiger. :D

Finally, a new pattern. I've been away from playing with felt for a while (largely because I still can't find where the movers packed it), but by the awesomeness of Nikki-the-Great, I had some special Japanese felt in reserve. (Just enough orange for a tiger -- Taihen doumo, Nikki!)

Also, process pictures. :3 Don't forget: right side of fabric means side that will be facing out when the whole thing is done; wrong side means the side that will be hidden facing the stuffing.

ONE: sew tummy and tail tips onto the right sides of fabric 

TWO: make the tail

This involves little more than putting the two tail panels right-sides-together and sewing around, remembering to leave the base of the tail open. Turn the tail right-side out, stuff it with fluff, and maybe add the applique stripes now, because it's harder to add them once the tail is attached to the body.

THREE: attach the tail

The "top" of the tail, that being the inside of the curve, should be facing the right side of the back panel. You can pin or baste it into place, whatever works for you.

FOUR: attach the bottom+sides piece

That long pointy piece provides both the bottom and the sides for this type of softie... it's built on the premise of a lunch bag "wedge" shape. Again, pin or baste it into place, making sure that it's relatively centered and even on both sides. (Ignore the seam in the middle of the piece I used here... I needed to improvise a longer piece from a tinier shape.)

FIVE: attach the front (face) piece

Just a reminder, all these pieces are facing wrong side out, right side in, with the tail hidden in the middle. Sew everything up, and remember to leave a hole of roughly 3cm unsewn somewhere, so you can invert your tiger and stuff it. (Ha, that sounds like a poorly-translated insult... "hey buddy, you can go invert your tiger and stuff it for all I care!")

SIX: invert and stuff

If you did everything right, you should now have this: white tummy on the front, tail attached at the bottom of the back. Now we get to stuff it up. If you want to make it more stable when it's sitting up (a good idea with this design, cause the bottom is so narrow), put something a little heavier in the bottom. I like to tape 10 pennies together and set them in as a weight, or make a little sack of rice out of some scrap fabric and put that in there. 

SEVEN: applique like crazy

I like this part... usually. Small pieces can be fussy sometimes. Using thread the same color as the piece you are attaching, applique the first layer of pieces onto the face and back of your form. I say the first layer because some of the pieces go on top of others. There is no special stitch to use: blanket stitch gives a nice edge if you have shiny thread or embroidery cotton, or you can just tack the pieces on with even stitches like I did. (Don't pull the thread too tight, else you'll get a wiggly scalloped edge on the applied pieces.)

EIGHT: back view

Once the stripes are on the back of your tiger, you're done there. (Note that the two stripes on either side go all the way around to the front.) As for the face...

NINE: 出来上がり - done!

Add the muzzle, eyebrows, and nose -- you now have a funny-looking Sack-o'-Tiger™ of your very own. おめでとう、congratulations! :D

So anyway, I hope to be around more often now. My sincere thanks to everyone who's been stopping by the blog, even while I wasn't posting anything new. You guys really cheer me up. m(-_-)m