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.
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”.
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.