Restoration Complete: Great Grandma Akiye’s Furisode. “Great Big White Birds”

A Flock Of Doves In Flight Over Wild Waves And Majestic Gold And Silver Pine On Decadent Red Silk.

On July the 24th, 2021 I posted this entry, after a bloody and violent bidding war for this kimono. For those joining this story here are the end, this is a piece that has been lost to my family since Japanese internment. I have kept you up to date a few times with the progress I’ve made on her restoration as well. For the full scope of everything that went into this restoration, it’s worth your while to start from the beginning.

Welcome one and all to the circus of buying in the good ol’ US of A! It’s chaos and anarchy out here, and I’ve decided to make a personal…hobby? Vendetta? I’ve made it my goddamn business to kick the monster named Executive Order 9066 square in the fucking balls in whatever way I can. This specific kick in the balls is highly personal. Digging my wiggly toes all up into the goonch for this one.

Today, though, for all of the toe wiggling goonch destruction in my heart I’m sitting here rather quietly at my keyboard for probably the seventh day in a row because I’m just not quite sure what to say now. It’s been over a year with this being on my station, and I’ve gotten to know her very well. There’s been videos of my gold and silver repair, there’s been lots of sharing.

I know the liquid softness to her chirimen (silk weave), I know the chunkiness of some of the pigments used to give the waves a real and visceral texture. I’ve gotten intimately familiar with the reason and placement of each deliberately drawn gold or silver pine needle, and the cracks which I specially formulated my pigments to heal–I’ve spent countless hours grinding precious metal into pigments to replace kinsai and ginsai (gold and silver paint respectively) that had been worn or decayed away. I removed stains, replaced pigment, and retailored the sleeves.

And when that was done, I was finally allowed to iron her. She’s been a wrinkly mess since the day that she appeared in my house. This is because I avoid heat treating anything until I’m completely done with stain removals. Don’t make your life harder–don’t heat set stains. Iron last.

Once upon a time, Great Grandma Akiye had this packed in a suitcase as she was being shuffled into an internment camp. Many things were buried somewhere nobody knows now, but this she brought with her. It was taken and she never saw it again. It was from a chance conversation, a sharing of passions between generations, that I ever got the opportunity to even hear about it and what it looked like when Uncle Aki told me about it.

It’s little things like that. The stars aligned. The universe said enough. Some tentacled Cthulhu monster took a shit somewhere, or whatever. But that description stood out in my mind–if not almost exclusively because those were the most words I’d ever gotten out of Uncle Aki. It was a moment shared. A moment where I learned something. So that when she crossed my path, I’d be ready for her.

Now she’s finished. Every brush stroke preserved and repaired. Stains removed. Birds all fluffy and white again.

What do I say about it that I haven’t said already? What more is there? There is no one left for me to give her back to, so I just want the love that I feel right now to carry my thoughts across the threshold.

And I think that with the big feels out of the way, I will show you all the moneyshots of before and after pictures that you came here for.

It would be fun if I could sit here and tell you that this took over a year because she threw a lot of challenges at me. She really didn’t. Some stains didn’t want to move, but I was able to cover them, so they’re gone. What took so long is that every single pine needle is accounted for. It’s the scale of the project, really, that took so long. To be honest, this is probably one of my most cooperative restorations ever. She wanted to lay flat. She wanted to be fixed. She wanted to drape nicely. Also she weighs a metric fucking ton.

You will see me wear this in the near future. I’m waiting out mud season and putting together a proper ensemble, but what kind of fucking asshole would I be if I spent this kind of insane energy on this project and then didn’t do the thing that kimono are for? Kimono literally means “a thing to wear.” Who am I to fight with a whole ass language?

For right now, she’s gently folded. Possibly for the first time since since she was taken.

Pictured: Peaceful as fuck.

What a ride, guys. What a fucking ride that was. My emotions are kind of insane right now, so I’m gonna stack ice cream on this mess and celebrate a job well done and a monster kicked in the fucking balls. Thank you for being here with me for it. Bonus round, the legend herself, Akiye Mitsui:

Join me next time for more antique birds and a giant box of goodies, and more internment camp shenanigans dealing with fading. I think I might have enough material for a proper tutorial on that. -M1 Garand reloading noises-


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