Boro Stitching | Japanese Beauty in Mending Things
Picture Credit - discardedcloth.com
All of us at some point or the other have felt extremely heartbroken when something that we bought or inherited breaks or tears or is completely ruined. It might be our favourite t-shirt or pair of jeans, even antique crockery or jewellery or a family heirloom and so on and so forth. Our first instinct naturally is to pick up the pieces and mend it with superglue or stitch it back and we try endlessly to make it look perfect, exactly how it was before. But we all know that is a myth. But instead of feeling disheartened or upset about the ‘scars’ on our favourite item, we must cherish it. That crack or tear has so many memories behind it and it is a reminder of that memory. And as much as we like to preserve our artefacts, we must also preserve along with it, our memory of it.
The Japanese, in this regard posses a skill when it comes to mending and preserving things.
They resort to a practise called Kintsugi which when translated means “golden joinery”.
Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair” is the age-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery and other artefacts with enamel dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. This repair method highlights each artefact's unique history by celebrating its fractures and cracks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the replenished artefact even more beautiful than the original, invigorating in it new life.
Since its birth, Kintsugi has been greatly influenced by the then philosophical ideas, namely, the practice is related to the Japanese philosophy of ‘wabi-sabi’, which stands for beauty in the face of the flaws or imperfection. This method was also conceived from the Japanese term ‘mottainai’, which is a feeling of regret when something is wasted, as well as ‘mushin’, which means the acceptance of change.
The same values have given birth to another very famous practise of mending torn clothes called the Boro stitching method adopted by the Japanese.
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Instead of throwing away a torn piece of clothing, or paying the tailor to hide the repair, the Japanese see it as an opportunity to make or enhance a flaw to add to the beauty of the garment.
The term Boro might sound unfamiliar to us but it has a legendary and documented history and is going through a bit of a “renaissance” or rebirth due to the fact that it is now being used by contemporary brands in their products. Boro, then was the clothing worn by peasants, merchants or artisans in Japan where during feudal times the majority were peasant farmers.
Not many could afford the silk kimono and obi worn by the aristocrats and hence clothes were made from cheaper materials, but they too were no less beautiful than those worn by the upper classes. Cotton in Japan was scarce but hemp was abundant. Hemp would be homespun and woven into patterns.
Boro as a traditional patchwork style, grew out of necessity as opposed to aesthetics.
Over generations of families, these textiles would acquire more and more patches, almost to the point of an observer being unable to recognise where the original fabric began.
Picture credit - raggyrobin.co.uk
The beauty of the Boro fabric is in its highly sophisticated sewing and weaving techniques used. The pattern stitched into the fabric of these trousers is known as ‘hishizashi’. Household Boro items give an interesting insight into the lifestyle of those times. Boro is a practical, utilitarian and cheap fabric.
Each Boro item is by its very definition, absolutely unique. Now, it is valued as art and has become highly collectible. Boro uses everything and wastes nothing.
The ‘beauty of practicality’ or ‘Yuyo-no-bi’ is a concept which is lacking in today’s consumer behaviour.
Keeping in mind the the thrifty practices undertaken by the Japanese, one question that arises is that should things be made merely to look at and its aesthetics? To admire an art like Boro or Kintsugi is to appreciate practicality over and as an aesthetic aspect. The Japanese show us the value of time spent, not money. Unfortunately, these methods of mending things also highlights the wastefulness of modern lifestyles. It sounds harsh but Boro and Kintsugi also point out the futility of some other forms of art that we may admire.
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