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About Karopka,

By Mayumi Maeda
(Artist and designer, working as a Director for LINNET Co., Ltd, )

Started with 'Beautiful Washilisa'


As for 'Russia',first of all ,I remind of the book of Russian tale, which I was very fond of in my childhood.
the book of Russian tale
1968
Among several tales in the book, the one I liked best was 'Beautiful Washilisa'
In that story, Washilisa is smart and beautiful girl, but annoyed by her stepmother and stepsisters.
They ordered Washilisa to visit the Witch, Baba Yagar's house in the deep forest , to get the fire.It was a very dangerous job, but the small lovely doll given by Washilisa's dead mother, helped her. At last in the story, Washilisa married with the king and they lived happily ever after.

In the story, Washilisa spins linen yarns and also weaves the linen fabric.
The story told that, the fabric she made was so fine and thin that it could go through the needle hole like thread!
When I 've been reading this story as a child , I didn't realize what linen was. I just imagined linen to be a kind of fiber like the horse tail. Now I think it is not so far from the reality.
Anyway, this was my first experience of coming across 'linen' in my life.

Now I'm grown up and I have a special affection toward flax and linen. Nealy 10 years ago, I became so eagerly passionate about reseaching about linen, because we had very few informations about linen in Japan as a consumer, at that time.
I talked with several linen professionals, and visited France, Belgium and USA to see how the flax is made into linen fabric.
When I visited Normandie in France in 2000, which is the very famous region for flax production, I've learnt that France is the 2nd biggest linen producing country following Russia.
The man working for Linen Expo in Normandie said,
'France is 2nd in the world in quantity, but 1st for the quality.'
He was so proud of the quality of flax in France.
Then, the memory of the story of Washilisa has frashed back to me and my interest toward Russian linen had got the certain place in my mind.
However, Russia had been in remain'next but far'country for us ,until I became acquainted with reliable working partner from Russia about linen production recently.


Linen in Russia

I heard that Russia is very suitable for flax and linen production. Particularly, especially Smolensk area was is main actor for linen producing.
Historically, Russia has long tradition about linen, and in1700, Tzar Peter the Great has ordered to organaize the Russian linen house in Europe. Since then , flax trading became significant trading for Russia .
However after the revolution, Bosheviks denied and abondoned all of the cultures regarding the past , including the linen culture.The linen only remained as the cloth worn by the peasants and poor people.

On the other way, communists government tried to protect and invest linen industries up to modern times.But it remained in relatively poor conditions. .However after the corapse of Soviet Union, most of the mills are half closed because of the unstability of the politics and economy.
These few years, Russia seems to be getting the real stable society, and people involved in linen industries have strong wish to reorganaize the Russian tradition of linen industry. The quality and traditions in making flax fabrics still remain and Russia is in very good geographic position to grow flax.


Also Russia has a beautiful tradition for handworks, for it's long winter. Most of women especially the peasants, spent the winter days by embroidering, knitting and weaving.Main part of those fabulous handworks are made with linen fabrics or linen yarns.

Karopka

`Karopka' is the series of the fine linen products made in Russia.
I have designed those series working with the reliable business and designing partner in Moscow.
I 've got the inspiration from Russian folkrore embroidery patterns, kiril letters , and so. For me, Karopla is so Russian, but my working partner in Moscow, told me that my designs are what they call 'Japanese Minimalism'.His comment was so interesting for me, because I have realized my taste based on Japanese culture, - entire simplicity - is always influencial to my design.


「Linen ga suki」
mayumi maeda
2002
(C)Karopka

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