I've just spent the last couple of hours immersed in a glossy high-end magazine from Japan: Kateigaho International Edition. In refreshing contrast to the glossy high-end brochure I had trouble with in the last post, this issue of KIE delves deeply into the aesthetic of frugality and speaks eloquently about the beauty of reuse and repair and how connected these concepts are to Japanese culture. No fashionable flash in the pan, the Japanese appreciation of wabi sabi, mingei (folk art) and mottainai (respect for all things, using them so nothing is lost or wasted in the course of an object's existence) flows from spiritual belief imbued in daily life.
There is a great array of articles on sakiori, the art of weaving with rags; hishizashi, a form of counted thread embroidery; boro cloth; patchwork; and wood, paper and ceramic crafts.
Shimatsu, a Kyoto dialect word for frugality, is written with the characters for "beginning" and "end", indicating an attitude of careful consideration from start to finish.
This handbag is made from the persimmon cured cloth used to strain the lees in sake-making. The fabric becomes like leather over its years of use.
Worn out socks and t-shirts are stitched with sashiko and used as dustrags. Think of how the relationship with an object you are dusting would change if the chore was carried out with a hand stitched cloth. It might transform from drudgery into an act of devotion.
Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken ceramics with lacquer and gold dust. The text includes a quote from gallery owner Kazuya Kuroda:
One suspects that this mending of broken vessels, then using and loving them, speaks to a certain sense of beauty that is peculiar to Japan.
None of this comes cheap, of course. People at the lower end of the income scale, ironically, can't afford rag rugs and mended pottery. But somehow, appreciation of the aesthetic of frugality seems authentic to Japanese culture whereas it seems a world away from the faux pauvre Eurostyle of Roche-Bobois.
KIE is often available at news stands and magazine shops that carry international publications. If you can find a copy of this edition (#28), it is well worth the investment. Also featured are articles on Jeffrey Montgomery's incredible (and well-used) collection of mingei, organic farming in Japan, and some yummy recipes.
(Thanks to my dear friend Jean-Pierre for sending me my copy.)