⟨ Misc ⟩

The Blemished Everyday Items

Tsuchiya Orimono-sho

Words and Photography / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

在土屋美恵子位於奈良的工房裡,掛了一片發黃的薄布。手掌的大小,看得出被經年累月磨擦過、拉扯過,好些地方缺了角,邊緣都跑出了毛線來了,但針穿過的細孔在它身上仍然排列整齊,暗示著,它曾經完好地給縫在某處。「客人數年前買了我們的書套,每天帶在身上,日子一久,便磨破了,於是寄給我們作修補。」土屋美恵子覺得從破書套拆下來的舊裡布很美,於是一直保留著。

我想起她在土屋織物所的網站上,引述了柳宗悅的一段話:「手與機械的差異,在於手是與心直接相連的。(中略)手動而心動,手心相應,創造著物件、為動件添上喜悅,同時保守著道德。 而這正是使物品變得美麗的原因。」土屋織物所的書套,布料是由工匠們一縱一橫緩緩地編成的,再由另一位工匠,一針一線地縫製而成。客人大概看著書袋時如同看著工匠的手的動靜,撫著書袋時如同撫著工匠的內心,因而在這個貪新喜舊的消費世代裡,在書袋變得破舊時,仍捨不得丟棄。

In Emiko Tsuchiya’s workshop in Nara hangs a thin cloth that has got yellowish. The cloth, which is only the size of a palm, has apparently been heavily used; some corners have turned blunt, the edges are as well torn, exposing the thread ends. Regardless of how aged it looks, the tiny holes for needlework still look intact, implying the cloth was once sewed onto something else. “A customer bought one of our fabric book covers a few years ago. The cover slowly got torn after some heavy use and was sent back to us for repair.” Tsuchiya found the old piece of cloth detached from the book cover very beautiful and has then been keeping it until now.

I recalled a quote by Yanagi Sōetsu that she posted on the website of Tsuchiya Orimono-sho saying, “The difference between handiwork and machine is the real human touch which is connected straight to the heart. […] The hands follow the heart; together, they create works with elements of joy. Intrinsically the principle and moral of handicraft are upheld, to maintain the authenticity of the works.” The fabric book covers produced at Tsuchiya Orimono-sho are first woven carefully by craftsmen, before being sewn together stitch by stitch by another craftsman. The appearance of the book cover itself can already tell the intricate steps involved in the production, whilst a touch of the cover would reveal the dedication of the craftsmen. In this age of consumerism where the cycles of a product’s life are becoming shorter, the owner still holds onto the fabric book cover even it gets old and shabby.

土屋美恵子於1996年,29歲時才學習染布及織布,最初發表的,是以絹作材料的圍巾,至2006年成立了土屋織物所,開始生產貼近生活的用品。杯墊、布包、紙巾套、便當袋、懷紙袋……全都是她自己在日常生活裡用得上的。自己用得上,才知怎樣叫好,觸感該如何;置在桌子上時該有甚麼表情;在居室裡,怎樣才顯得安靜不擾人。好幾次,我充滿私心地問她會否生產圍裙,她都露出猶豫的表情,因為她平常工作或做飯都不穿圍裙,對它茫然無頭緒。是設有肩帶的好?還是掛在脖子的好?腰間的口袋大小該如何?需要腰帶嗎?工藝家都是用身體來設計的,身體對之陌生,又不願紙上談兵,就索性不沾手。

土屋美恵子的家裡,置著不少她喜愛的古道具,有些是實用的,如古老的手動紡線機,有些則用途不明,也有數百年前流傳下來的布料。我總覺得,喜歡古道具的工藝家,都是邊凝看著未來邊設計的,想像著作品於數年,甚至數十年後的模樣,要自己做出來的東西,在多年後更加美麗,更被珍而重之。

Emiko Tsuchiya first learned the technique of fabric dyeing and weaving at the age of 29 in 1996. The first collection she made was some silk scarves. Only until she founded Tsuchiya Orimono-sho in 2006 did she start to make everyday items like coasters, bags, tissue holders, bento bags and wagashi paper pouches. By making these items that she can actually use on a daily basis, she gets to assess what kind of products can be considered as quality products. She needs to consider the texture, how it would appear when sitting on the table, and how it can be integrated into the living room without affecting the original vibe. There were a few occasions I tried to ask if she would like to make some aprons since this is something I use a lot myself. She would somewhat struggle when answering my question, as she never wears an apron when working or cooking. She has no idea how to design an apron. Shoulder straps or neck strap, which is better? How big should the waist pocket be? Is the waistband necessary? The artisans need to use their own experience to design; in the face of an unfamiliar item, they would rather not make a product by mere speculation.

Tsuchiya has stored quite a few vintage items at home, including some practical articles such as a vintage spinning wheel; along with some other items that serve an unknown purpose and fabrics from hundreds of years ago. I always imagine artisans who are into vintage items would keep the future in view when designing; they would try to make things that can get more beautiful with time, thus more and more valued by their owners in the future.

為這一期OBSCURA採訪土屋美恵子時,我曾經打算在工房裡,拍攝作品的樣版,然而,面對著那些簇新的生活用品,卻感到它們雖美,但似乎還欠缺了甚麼。它們比不上土屋美恵子用上數年的布袋子;比不上我用茶時,她奉上的經過多翻洗刷的杯墊;比不上我家裡那個有點庸懶的紙巾套。它們同樣來自土屋織物所,但少了「使用」、少了「歲月」,竟感美中不足。土屋織美所的生活用品,經過了使用者之手才得以完整,也因此在使用著的日子裡,暗地有著微小的期待,期待它變老,變舊,變得更美。

Tsuchiya has stored quite a few vintage items at home, including some practical articles such as a vintage spinning wheel; along with some other items that serve an unknown purpose and fabrics from hundreds of years ago. I always imagine artisans who are into vintage items would keep the future in view when designing; they would try to make things that can get more beautiful with time, thus more and more valued by their owners in the future.

OBSCURA將於12月1日開始,於Halfway Coffee舉行新一期雜誌的紀念展覽,同時展示部分土屋織物所的生活用品,並同步於OBSCURA Online Store發售。關於土屋美恵子的詳細訪問,請留意新一期的OBSCURA雜誌。

When interviewing Tsuchiya for the current issue of OBSCURA magazine, I had an idea to photograph the prototypes in her workshop. However, looking at those brand new everyday items, I could not help thinking there was something missing from these beautiful things. They were somehow not as nice as the pouch Tsuchiya has been using for years, or the coaster she used to serve me tea that appeared old from washing, or the no longer sturdy tissue holder I have at home. These are all articles produced by Tsuchiya Orimono-sho but are surprisingly blemished by looking too new. The everyday items from Tsuchiya Orimono-sho can obtain their full charisma only by being used. The users would also expect to see them getting worn and torn, which adds an essence to further adorn the daily wares.

Starting from the 1st of December, OBSCURA will host a retrospective exhibition for its latest issue at Halfway Coffee. There, a selection of lifestyle products from Tsuchiya Orimono-sho will be on display and available for sale in the OBSCURA Online store. For a detailed interview with Emiko Tsuchiya, please stay tuned to the next issue of OBSCURA.