Winter Ware

We’re feeling winter’s chill here at Museum Bites so today we’re wrapping ourselves in some cold-weather gear. Join me for a brief look at three clever and cozy pieces that help keep the frigid temps at bay. We begin in Japan…

Toasty Hands:  Our first cozy piece is a te-aburi (1916) by Japanese ceramicist, Makuzu Kōzan (1842-1916). Handcrafted from stoneware with a celadon glaze, this delightful, minty green hand warmer is pretty and practical. Just scoop in warm coals, wrap your hands around its toasty exterior, and relax amidst the woodsy scent of burning embers. Add a mug of hot cocoa to enhance the experience.

Makuzu Kōzan (aka Miyagawa Toransouke) was born in Kyoto, Japan. He came from a long line of potters who were best known for their tea ceremony tableware. Instead of taking over the family business, Kōzan set up shop in Yokohama and used his extraordinary talent to create not only teaware, but lush bowls, ewers, vases, and te-aburi. Kōzan’s popularity quickly grew and his work has been exhibited not only in Japan but throughout the world. If you’d like to view more of his wares, click on this Makuzu Kōzan link, courtesy of Google Arts & Culture.

Cozy Coat:  Our next cozy piece of winter gear is a gorgeous, handmade Inuvialuit ceremonial parka (date and artist unknown) that was crafted from wool felt and trimmed with fur. Appliques featuring Inuit hunters, tents, and a variety of arctic animals add a splash of colorful bling. The deep hood, thick wool, and luxurious fur provide a stylish way to stay warm in the frigid Arctic weather.

The Inuit, Yup’ik Eskimos, and their fellow Arctic inhabitants were also known for the less blingy gut parkas made from animal intestines (e.g., seal, walrus). Resources are scarce in the Arctic and this clever use of material at one time provided warm and waterproof garments. After the gut had been cleaned, dried and cut to size, it was sewn by hand with sinew, using a specific watertight stitching. Efforts have been made to preserve this tradition. Click on this gut parka video link, courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to watch this fascinating process unfold.

Yup'ik Eskimo Gut Parka (c1920), Neville Public Museum, Photo by cjverb (2018)
Yup’ik Eskimo Gut Parka (c1920), Neville Public Museum, Photo by cjverb (2018)

Sealed Boots:  Our final piece of cold-weather gear is the mukluk, the go-to footwear of the Arctic and beyond. These durable, watertight boots have a long history among the indigenous people living within the Arctic Circle. Traditional mukluks, like this example on display at the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin are made of animal hide with a seal skin heel and sewn with sinew.

Yup'ik Eskimo Mukluks (c1925) Neville Public Museum, Photo by cjverb (2018)
Yup’ik Eskimo Mukluks (c1925) Neville Public Museum, Photo by cjverb (2018)

Sturdy, rugged and watertight, multiple pairs of mukluks were worn in layers to combat the harshest of winters. During the 17th century, newly arrived European fur traders and explorers tossed off their flimsy footwear in favor of mukluks. As their popularity grew, more bling was added, including fur trim, tassels, beads, and other ornamentation. Today, knockoff versions of the mukluk range from simple slipper socks to badass boots.

That wraps up our look at winter ware. I’ll be back next week with more Museum Bites, in the meantime, keep warm and cozy!

Want more snow gear? Click on Museum Bites: Riding the Rails-Part 1 and check out the snowplow train. Click on this Museum Bites: Ice, Ice Baby link to learn more about the history of ice skates.

Hat & Mittens by Jill Wellington, Pixabay-100px Cover photo by Jill Wellington, courtesy of Pixabay.


Art Institute of Chicago (AIC)

Canadian Encyclopedia: Mukluk

Dennos Museum Center

First Peoples of Canada: Inuit

Google Arts & Culture: Makuzu Kōzan

Master Potter of Meiji Japan: Makuzu Kōzan (1842-1916) and His Workshop (2002), by MC Pollard

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Makuzu Kōzan

Museum Bites: On the Rails-Part 1

Museum Bites: Ice, Ice Baby

Neville Public Museum


Smithsonian Institute: Gut Parka

Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History: Gut Parka Informational Video

Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History: Gut Parka Video

Wikimedia Commons



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