No-waste boro: Mending is better than ending
December 31, 2017 4:49 PM   Subscribe

"Hand-woven indigo dyed cotton patches are hand stitched to both sides of this apron, and the tie is also patched together from two types of cotton. In its simple utility, this apron embodies the Japanese mottainai, or waste nothing, aesthetic." On the beauty of boro. posted by MonkeyToes (18 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
So, this is basically the Japanese version of patchwork fabric?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:13 PM on December 31 [1 favorite]


Oh, I love Sashiko embroidery.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:32 PM on December 31


If you think this means "waste nothing" it reveals something of how you value women's work.
posted by hawthorne at 8:25 PM on December 31 [9 favorites]


As my grandmother (who went through the Depression) said, "Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do Or do without."
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:25 PM on December 31 [5 favorites]



If you think this means "waste nothing" it reveals something of how you value women's work.


Originally, probably not. Spinning and weaving the cloth that would have been thrown away was also women's work.
posted by clew at 12:57 AM on January 1 [7 favorites]


If you think this means "waste nothing"

Honestly not spoiling for a scrap, but it's the cloth that's being not wasted here, mottainai just literally being "don't waste".

On preview, pardon the pile-on.
posted by ominous_paws at 4:05 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


If you think time spent meticulously crafting beautiful objects is time wasted, it reveals something of how you value more or less anything.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 4:18 AM on January 1 [9 favorites]


Not sure if Japanese people really think of "mottainai" as an aesthetic. It just means "what a waste!" or, depending on the situation, "pearls before swine". Nothing exotic or unique going on here, I think, although the fabrics are quite nice.

Maybe a native Japanese speaker can pitch in here. Haver you ever heard of a "mottainai aesthetic" in Japanese?

Going forward, I think I will clean up the kitchen now, in order to embody some of that katazukenakya aesthetic.
posted by sour cream at 4:20 AM on January 1 [3 favorites]


I remember reading stories about how expats in Japan furnished their apartments with furniture and working electronics that they'd found left out in the trash. Unless those stories are fiction, this mottanai is not universally practiced.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:28 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


The apron in the FPP was made in the early 20th century, when you had to be mottainai if you wanted nice things.

Today, there's a huge "cult of the New" in Japan: new stuff is best! Hence the old stuff you find in the trash. But I certainly don't think this cultural phenomenon is limited to Japan.
posted by heatherlogan at 8:33 AM on January 1


Also, from the second paragraph of the second linked article:
Boro was born of forgotten values of ‘mottainai’ or ‘too good to waste’. An idea dangerously lacking in the modern consumer lifestyle.
No-one is saying that mottainai is universally practiced; in fact quite the opposite.
posted by heatherlogan at 8:36 AM on January 1


Beautiful and fits in with Japanese kintsugi - the art of mending broken objects. I didn’t realize they applied a similar philosophy to clothing/fabric, but it makes perfect sense.


Love this, thank you for posting.
posted by nightrecordings at 12:04 PM on January 1


Beautiful and fits in with Japanese kintsugi - the art of mending broken objects.

Kintsugi is a specific technique for mending ceramics. This is like saying soldering is the art of making things out of metal.
posted by kenko at 12:29 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


Heck, right now most of the clothes that are cheap enough to throw away are made by women whose work and persons are not much valued.
posted by clew at 11:34 PM on January 1


Worth noting that a lot of the "it's a remarkable part of Japanese culture" talk around things like this and kintsugi is largely a product of orientalism and the fetishization of 'the East.'

Nearly all of this - the passing-down of clothes between generations, the 'highly sophisticated sewing and weaving techniques' used - could just as easily be used to describe, say, the sharecroppers of the early 20th century US or the impotent poor of 16th century London.
posted by Molten Berle at 12:35 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


The apron caught my eye because it is beautiful. That it touches on my interests in wasting less, and in textiles, is a bonus. Something lovely from scrap materials? Yes, please. I love the colors and the not-quite-straight lines and the careful placing of stitches, and the freedom of making something new, something of a tradition but not beholden to a particular pattern.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:22 PM on January 2


"Nearly all of this - the passing-down of clothes between generations, the 'highly sophisticated sewing and weaving techniques' used - could just as easily be used to describe, say, the sharecroppers of the early 20th century US or the impotent poor of 16th century London."

That is absolutely true, but for embroiderers or textile fanatics or folk art aficianados, the different national and regional styles are the entire point of loving and learning all these different techniques. Sashiko embroidery on boro is VERY LIKE patchwork quilting in the US -- saving old pieces of fabric, piecing them together in pleasing ways, and using small, even stitches to create textured patterns atop the pieced patterns -- and yet it is entirely different in its patterns, colors, types of fabric, types of thread, specific needle and thread techniques, etc.

If you want to sweep away the marvelous diversity of the quintessentially female art of making reused textiles beautiful, and collapse the elaborations of culturally-specific needle arts down to "look, poor people did it everywhere, you're just exoticizing," I feel like the problem isn't really textile lovers exoticizing; the problem is that you're devaluing a female folk-art form and collapsing an entire world of culturally distinct artwork because of a belief that "reusing fabric" doesn't have an art to it, or a thousand culturally-specific techniques, and isn't a valid expression of art, or culture, or local traditions, usually because it's female and "just fabric."

There are exhibitions on of traditional textile art all the time -- it should be quite easy to find a relatively permanent exhibit near you of local techniques, and traveling exhibits come through even smaller cities a couple of times a year, sometimes at museums, sometimes at fabric shows, sometimes hosted by local fiber arts societies. There are probably 40 women in your town (many, many more if you're in a city) who have been to half a dozen sashiko exhibits in the last decade -- along with every other textile-related exhibit or event that comes through town -- and who could point out nuances of technique and knowledgeably discuss the development of the style, even though they've never been to Japan, don't speak Japanese, and have never studied Japan in particular. Then they will start comparing it to similar patchwork-and-embroidery around the world and talking about available weaving techniques and dye plants and threadmaking technology and you will not be able to escape for an hour or so. Textile people are fanatical, yo. They love sashiko because they love sashiko, not because they're exoticizing Japan.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:42 PM on January 2 [9 favorites]


If you want to sweep away the marvelous diversity of the quintessentially female art of making reused textiles beautiful, and collapse the elaborations of culturally-specific needle arts down to "look, poor people did it everywhere, you're just exoticizing," ...

I agree completely, and apologize for the stridency of my post; this is absolutely an art, from a historically undervalued (and unacknowledged) group, and it is absolutely worth consideration as such, and my phrasing unfortunately diminished that perspective.

I was speaking primarily to the "ooh, how exotic" viewpoint that often accompanies these arts as they're frequently shown online, similarly dislodged from the context of women artists and instead utilized as evidence there's some sort of mystical "respect for nature and change" that's lacking in the Western world.
posted by Molten Berle at 3:03 PM on January 2


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