V & A Museum has been duplicated with a high degree of precision in terms of scale, direction and detail. But there are some differences between the same designs - can you spot them? We believe that patterns were pricked and pounced from a printed pattern page and one can only imagine how many pattern pages ended in tatters as a result. This might have been all well and good for domestic embroidery, but a professional drawer may have devised other strategies to conserve paper and contain costs. One such strategy was the use of the engraved plate and there are in existence 16th and 17th century patterns in the V & A Museum which have been printed onto the cloth using engraved plates. These could obviously, after an initial expensive outlay, have been used time and time again.
And there are other possibilities which exist in use to this day. While in Japan, visiting a temple in Kyoto, I had the pleasure to meet Toshio-san who wanted to show me some details which I might otherwise have overlooked. It turned out that we had a common interest - mons - or Japanese family crests. I have always loved these striking designs, so what wonderful fate it was that led me into this meeting with the last of a family line of mon painters in the traditional style. I was taken back to Toshio-san's studio which had belonged to his great-grandfather and he showed me the mons he had painted on fabric ready for making up into ceremonial kimonos. Then he painted one for me which you can see here. To do this he took down a circular pattern plate which was pierced with just a small number of holes in key positions around the perimeter. The pattern was put on the card and pounced. So, once the pattern was removed there were just a few 'locator dots' to work with, and it was Toshio-san's knowledge of how to join these dots that resulted in the design which he could replicate - along with all the other mons - as required, with exactly the same scale and composition time and time again. This mon - a butterfly - is barely an inch square. While it would be a mistake to extrapolate backwards from exisiting and foreign practices, they do give a very interesting insight into the critical factors which govern the process. I was sad to hear that Toshio-san was the last of his line - he works alone in a studio which once would have had half a dozen family workers. His son is an airline pilot.