mindful Sashiko Importance of ordinary day

Importance of ordinary day | Mindful Sashiko

It has been a long time since my last post, which was about Sashiko Workshop Weekend in NYC. It means it has been a long time since I had done Mindful Sashiko. Although I hoped to update our Sashiko works, review of great Sashiko workshops and coming up projects, I got sick right after the workshop, then my daughter caught the flu, then, of course, I received it from her.

 

Importance of healthy ordinary day.

 

My primal job is to be a homemaker in my household.

While my wife goes to work, I prepare the house so everyone can have the healthy and comfortable life. As much as I would like to devote my entire life to Sashiko, putting family first is something I promised to my father (who passed away in 2013.) It is very uncommon for a man to be a (semi) stay-at-home father, and put family first more than his work. I respect all of the homemakers who try their best to keep a household comfortable. It isn’t an easy job as it sounds, especially when a member of the family is sick, it is very hard to see him/her suffer.

 

Every time I face to the difficulty in terms of health, I realize that I have forgotten how important it is to have a good health.

I decided my life to be a supporter of my daughter, my wife, and my mother: 3 generations of my princesses. It is my ordinary day, and the health is very important for appreciating these ordinary days.

 

 

Find yourself. Recommending Mindful Sashiko.

 

Today was the first day I could have the needle in a while.

I find myself appreciating what I have by making every stitch. I realize myself enjoying mindfulness. In my understanding, there is no such a thing as “Mindful Sashiko” since Sashiko itself is already mindful. Hold the needle (like a Budha posture), and then make stitching with only focusing to make the even stitches. The time becomes peaceful and you will find yourself in meditation mode.

 

Mindful Sashiko Thread

 

Enjoying beautiful color of thread.

Feeling comfortable by touching the good weight, nice soft cotton fabric.

If you are lucky, you may smell the scent of Natural Dye.

 

The core concept of Sashiko: Mottainai (Too good to waste) will bring you the idea of appreciating what you have. It is not only an appreciation for what you have in form of materials but also the appreciation to what we have in the daily basis, family, friends, and society.

My goal is to share the concept of this beautiful life by introducing what Sashiko is.

 

 

 

More projects are coming up. I will keep you updated.

 

Online Sashiko Workshops.

More Natural Dye Sashiko Thread.

Japan-made beautiful Fabrics.

 

I have many projects in my mind to share and introduce. Keep you updated by subscribing the newsletter or RSS Feeds.

 

 

Sashiko Expensive

Is Sashiko Expensive Art for wealthy people?

Is Sashiko Expensive in the contemporary textile market?

The answer is, unfortunately, “Yes.” Sashiko artisans spend a huge amount of time into a project, and therefore, the Sashiko art/craft can be expensive in comparison to the other textile products. For example, Sashiko Bags produced by Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya costs in a range of $100 to $500. Although the price isn’t crazy compared to the high-end product, for the small handbag made from cotton fabric, the price is relatively expensive.

 Sashiko Expensive 1  Sashiko Expensive 2

Is Sashiko supposed to be Expensive? Was Sashiko expensive?

In my understanding of Sashiko history and its origin, the answer is “No”: Sashiko shouldn’t be expensive. I believe that Sashiko was found as the “art (craft)” in the movement of defining Japanese Folk Art, Mingei. (About Mingei Movement in Japan.) Sashiko was everywhere in Japan a few hundred years ago. It was the technique to appreciate the fabric for the ordinal people by the ordinal people. In fact, Sashiko was developed because people didn’t have enough money to purchase the new clean fabric. The culture arose in the completely opposite side of “expensive”.

 

Why is Sashiko Expensive now?

It is simply because the people who engage their life into Sashiko is very few in the 21st century. The demand for Sashiko drastically shrank, and the Sashiko craftsman/artists needed to find other jobs to survive. The economic growth based on the capitalism introduced the mass-production and mass-consumption (replace rather than repair), and the culture of repairing fabric with Sashiko became the inefficient, unproductive, and non-logical solution for the society.

In Hida area, our family took a quick move to make Sashiko into the local crafts and souvenirs for tourists who visited the old town in Takayama. They followed the concept of Mingei Folk Art movement and made a division of labor, such as Sashiko stitching, tailoring, pattern designing and drawing, and even the management in form of company. Until the end of 20th century, Sashiko (in Hida) was very reasonable crafts for many ordinal people.

 

After losing many Sashiko artists and craftsman in each division of labor because of their age, the management had to shift the organizations’ policy to produce more expensive “one-of-a-kind” products with respecting the remaining artisans, in order to keep Sashiko culture alive in next 10 years, and hopefully in next 100 years. In order to compensate to the works they do & to the value they create, the Sashiko became expensive.

 

Sashiko became unusual, therefore, sashiko became Expensive.

*There is only a few craftsmen/artists who make their living with only doing Sashiko. At least, I know some Sashiko artists in Japan, but they do have other jobs to make living, or they have another source of income besides the Sashiko. So do I, and so does Keiko. 

 

I would like to make Sashiko (Art) to everyone, again.

 

Personally, I favor the concept from Mingei Japanese folk art movement. I believe Sashiko shouldn’t be crazy expensive art only for the wealthy people. We would really appreciate the support from the wealthy people to sustain the culture. However, our goal is not to make a fortune and be successful in the definition of capitalism.  I even feel that the society where Sashiko expensive seems a bit unhealthy for the human being.

 

Our goal is to make Sashiko available to everyone, again, as ordinal people did a few hundred years ago in Japan.

Sashiko was popular in every (poor) place in Japan. Therefore, the ordinal people stitched to help the other ordinal people. Mingei Movement found the beauty in these ordinal work. I also believe the ordinal Sashiko work is so beautiful, and as the result, it can get the reputation as the art.

 

After the big wave of the age of mass-production and mass-consumption, in another word of fast-fashion, people start realizing the inside problems. Most of the fabric can be repaired before replacing them. The ultimate result of repairing without replacing by making stitches with Sashiko is the famous textile so called Boro.

 

Wouldn’t be nice if you can repair your cloth by yourself as you wish, or ask someone with reasonable price instead of replacing it every year? However, please do not misunderstand. I am not trying to change the fashion field by denying the mass-production culture. I appreciate the accomplishments of the industrial revolution. What I am trying to say here is, it would be nice to spread the “repair culture” so we can have the option to our fashion, the human nature of what we wear.

 

As I mentioned above, I am also one of these Sashiko artists who cannot make the own living by only doing Sashiko. Therefore, we sell Sashiko supplies and materials for profit and provide the Sashiko workshops with fees. I believe I am providing the value equivalent to the money I receive. At the same time, I would like to spread the technique and culture who cannot afford the money by uploading the video, articles, and tutorials.

(For example, Youtube Channel is free to watch from anywhere.)

 

 

 

 

 

Your understanding is always appreciated, and your voice is always encouraging.

Until the day I really have to take care of my family, I will continue the way I ideally (idiotically) dream of. “Sashiko Expensive” to “Sashiko Appreciative”.

 

Footnotes:

I cannot thank enough to my wife who provides the quality life to the family, and my daughter who understands what her daddy wants to share to the world. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to pursue the unrealistic goal.

Mingei Art Movement

Mingei Art Movement in Japan and Sashiko

For a long time, I never doubted myself that the Sashiko is the “handicrafts art” which was found in Japanese Mingei Art Movement. I’ve read some books about the theory by the founder, Yanagi Souetsu (or Muneyoshi),  of this Japanese folk movement. I’ve visited the folk art museum in Tokyo where Mr.Yanagi established. I still believe that Sashiko in a large category of fabric wouldn’t be famous if the Mingei movement didn’t occur in 1920s and 1930s. Sashiko wasn’t the main crafts Mr.Yanagi focused. He significantly worked on the pottery, especially those were used in the Japanese Tea ceremony.

 

None of my understandings changed. However, I come to realize that I had never tried to explain what Mingei Art Movement was in English. Although I had briefly introduced it throughout my Sashiko workshops or when I introduce Sashiko, it was merely a quick mention with a very shallow explanation. Introducing “how” to do Sashiko is important in the workshop. However, introducing Sashiko’s history by explaining how it came to the surface of art-culture is also a very important aspect of passing Sashiko down to next generation. We, as Upcycle Stitches LLC, will try our best to describe it in English.

 

*Most of the writing is based on my (Atsushi’s) interpretation. In other words, they are merely my opinion based on books from the past and talks from people. When I refer the definition or sentence from existing book, I, of course, will refer the origin. However, the reference may be only in Japanese.   

*As I mentioned above, Mr.Yanagi described Sashiko only a little bit. He mentioned the beauty of Sashiko in Tohoku (Northern part of the main island). I haven’t found any articles about our Sashiko in Hida region and Mingei Movement. However, I believe, there are many handicrafts that Mr. Yanagi didn’t find yet to follow the concept of Mingei Art Movement.

 

Terminology of Mingei

There are a few words I need to define first. These word-definitions are my personal understanding. If you think of the better definition, please kindly let me know. I am still in the process of learning Mingei Art Movement.

 

  • Mingei (民藝): Folk Art. Min (民)means (ordinally) people. Mingei is the art produced by (ordinally) people. In contrast, Kan (管)means (governmental) officers. 
  • Kougei(工芸): Industrial handicrafts. Explaining the difference between Mingei and Kougei is my challenge here, too.
  • Gei-Jyutsu (芸術): Art.

I will keep updating the terminology while I proceed in updating the website regarding this topic.

What is Mingei?

Mingei is the art produced by the ordinal people for the daily life of the ordinal people. The art produced for loyal family, noble people and government people are not in a category of Mingei. Therefore, Mingei often has different look comparing to the other well-known Japanese art. Mr.Yanagi defined Mingei with the 8 criteria.

  1. Practical: made for practical usage, not for the display.
  2. Nameless: made by unknown craftsman, and the craft is not made to be famous.
  3. Mass-produced: In order to meet the demand from the people, the item were made in mass quantity.
  4. Reasonable Price: Inexpensive price so the ordinal people could purchase and use.
  5. Locality: The art item has the local characteristic such as color, shape, and patterns.
  6. Division of Labor: For the mass production, the art item was made in division of labors by skilled craftsman
  7. Tradition: Following the tradition and wisdom the ancestors cultivated.
  8. Collectability: The creation depend on the local tradition and climate rather than the individual skill

 

The Wikipedia describes the definition like below. I plan to explain each criteria based on my understanding to Sashiko. This is not a research paper, more like an essay to introduce what Sashiko is more clearly.

The philosophical pillar of mingei is “hand-crafted art of ordinary people” (民衆的な工芸 (minshū-teki-na kōgei)). Yanagi Sōetsu discovered beauty in everyday ordinary and utilitarian objects created by nameless and unknown craftsmen. According to Yanagi, utilitarian objects made by the common people are “beyond beauty and ugliness”. Below are a few criteria of mingei art and crafts:

  • made by anonymous crafts people
  • produced by hand in quantity
  • inexpensive
  • used by the masses
  • functional in daily life
  • the representative of the regions in which they were produced.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mingei)

What Mingei Art Movement brought to the world

 

Mingei Art Movement Sashiko

 

Mingei Art Movement influenced not only to the Japanese who didn’t focus on the beautiful art by ordinal people, but it also influences the western culture by introducing the Japanese, Korean and Chinese culture regarding handcrafts. In order to explain the whole picture of Mingei Art Movement thoroughly, I would need to start writing about the aspect of religion. For now, I am not ready to start the deep discussion of the whole picture of Mingei Art Movement.

I will keep writing about the Sashiko, and Mingei Art Movement regarding Sashiko.

 

Atsushi Futatsuya

Atsushi Futatsuya | Sashiko Artist & Curator

Hello, World. My name is Atsushi Futatsuya. In the USA, I often introduce myself “Azu” as my nickname. Let me please introduce myself to share why I am running this website.

 

I was born in Sashiko Family

Did you have a “planned future” that your family kept mentioning?

I was born in a surviving Sashiko Family in Gifu prefecture, Japan. In my childhood, my friends were Sashiko artisans who worked in our family business. There was a pile of fabric, scary numbers of needles and thimbles, and so many colored threads. I strongly remember many people told me that I will take over the business when I get older. It was the Japanese tradition for the first-born child to take over the family business, especially in the traditional crafting family.

 

And, of course, I hated my fate.

Regardless of my Sashiko techniques I naturally learned, I purely didn’t want to be in the Sashiko business in my adolescence. It wasn’t easy to get out of the rails many people prepared, so I decided to get out from the country. I decided to go to the university in the States. 

 

Atsushi Futatsuya in Collage

Sashiko Business to Sashiko life-style

After I had graduated from the university, I started working in Tokyo. I still didn’t want to take over Sashiko business. My parents were still 50’s, and I thought I could avoid a serious conversation about who would be responsible to the family business later on.

However, in 2008, my father called me if I could help him to run the business. The business went into a bad debt, and they could use some help from financial aspects.  After deep consideration, I decided to go back to the family business mentioning that I am only doing so to  “help,” not “take over.”

Sashiko as Business is very difficult to operate

After I spend some weeks checking the financial sheets, I realize that the Sashiko as a business could be very difficult to operate. In Sashiko, almost everything is hand-made. The keywords for business models of ordinary manufacture industry such as productivity, cost reduction planning, just-in-time system, and a lot more didn’t apply. I tried to understand the reason of debt. After all, recalculating all the possible cost, even if they are all done by hand and unique by one, helped to figure the “right” price. After two years of looking Sashiko with numbers, the company could avoid the bankruptcy. However, I couldn’t see the future. I didn’t find the possibility of growth.

 

Share what we are proud of

In 2010, I changed my mindset. Instead of focusing on growth, I started planning on “soft landing” of the business. It is almost impossible to make a fortune of money. However, I thought, it may be possible to “soft-land” the business so everyone can avoid the miserable bankruptcy. At that point, my mind shifted from numbers to what Sashiko actually is. I realize the beauty of Sashiko. It is the time I start trying to repair my denim jeans.

 

Around this time, I started introducing Sashiko in English. Then, I had opportunities to perform workshops in the Netherlands.

 

Atsushi Futatsuya Workshop in Netherlands

 

Why am I doing this?

As much as I enjoyed introducing Sashiko, the beautiful culture we were proud of, I started to wonder if why I was doing this besides the fact I was born in the family. I couldn’t find the purpose of sharing Sashiko, especially after I realize that Sashiko as a business may discontinue after elderly artisans stopped working for us. I coulnd’t reason myself to continue Sashiko business with sacrifice my days in 20’s.

 

Then, the Tohoku Earthquake occurred in 2011.

By supporting Tohoku throughout Sashiko, I realize the meaning of continuing Sashiko culture, to pass down the culture to the next generation.

 

 

After my father had passed away

In 2013, on October, my father had passed away unexpectedly.

Although my mind wasn’t ready to take over the business without my father, I had a determination that I was the one to take over his will to the company. I didn’t hate the fate I had as Sashiko Business Manager.

 

Long story short, life is full of dramas, my mother and I were fired by the new stakeholders who found out that the company had some cash. We knew the reason for this inhuman action. My mother and I were troublesome to deal with. We didn’t care about the short-term profit. We focused on how to continue the culture in form of a business entity. In 2013, I lost the identity as Atsushi Futatsuya as Sashiko business manager.

 

 

Upcycle & Sashiko Culture as Atsushi Futatsuya

After the unbelievable moment that our life changed, I decided to move to the United States. It was just too painful to stay in Japan. I told my mother that she could come with me, but she decided to stay in Japan. She had many friends, her precious dog, and my brother who just jumped into the society. She couldn’t just leave things behind. As much as I worried about her, we decided to start our new life without Sashiko.

Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya started in 2015

About June in 2014, my mother called me with a serious voice, saying “I would like to do Sashiko…”

She loves Sashiko. She couldn’t live without it. She could enjoy just stitching, but she also wanted to make big pieces and entertain people who love Sashiko. She asked me if I could help her to make her Sashiko as a business again. Although I was expecting to be a stay at home dad in the coming year, I agreed to help her to be Sashiko business owner. Then, she started the project called, Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya ~ Designing a life with Sashiko ~ with many helps around her.

 

What can I do as Atsushi Futatsuya?

Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya is getting bigger and bigger, and my mother enjoys her projects more and more. She provides beautiful Sashiko fabric to a fashion brand, she repairs the most beautiful Boros for a fashion designer, and she makes great Sashiko arts with her friends. Her income itself isn’t enough to support her days yet, but her enjoyment is what I value the most.

 

In 2017, I established a company called Upcycle Stitches LLC. This website is the company’s website.

I host Sashiko workshops. I provide Sashiko supplies and materials with sharing Sashiko techniques and skills. Based on my experience, it is my time to think what I can do as Atsushi Futatsuya, not as the 3rd generation of Sashiko business family.

 

It is our new journey to embrace Sashiko. My mission is to share what Sashiko is, to the world.

 

Hello, world. This is Atsushi Futatsuya. I am a Sashiko Artist and Curator of Sashiko Art.