Introducing Furoshiki: Contemporary Design + Traditional Japanese Craftsmanship
One of the best aspects of my job is curating the handmade and one-of-a-kind items we feature in our store. Each items is handmade by global artisans that are working at cooperatives, or as independent entrepreneurs, and strive to rise above poverty, fight discrimination, or gain an education by utilizing art forms that are deeply rooted within their cultures. Part of our mission at AMERICAN NOMAD is also to advocate for the preservation of traditional art forms that are disappearing as more items are mass produced by machines. As a career artists I'm familiar with most traditional artforms, so I could not contain my excitement when I discovered Furoshikis! These traditional Japanese textiles are amazing. They merge art, culture, function, and pure style and I'm so excited to introduce you to them and the inspiring people at LINK COLLECTIVE who make them.
Link produces contemporary furoshiki textiles through their network of artists and designers from around the world. Founded by Tokyo-born Kyoko in 2011, she spent over 10 years working in Japan's retail industry before starting Link and aims to cross cultures and generations by creating beautiful and functional items that merge international design with traditional Japanese production methods.
Furoshiki, their specialty, is a traditional single piece of Japanese wrapping cloth and dates back more than 1,200 years in the Japanese culture. Originally referred to as “tsutsumu," meaning wrapping, it is seen throughout Japan and implies respect to others on the gift-giving occasion while an unwrapped item is considered impolite. It wasn't until the Muromachi period and the rise in popularity of baths that it became known as "furoshiki." The square pieces of cloth would be stamped with a family crest to identify the owner and used to carry a change of clothes and bathing accessories. This custom then spread and soon the owner of a bookstore would wrap books, or a textile dealer would wrap clothes, ultimately promoting their business with personalized wrapping clothes.
While this art of furoshiki remains popular in Japan, its use has declined because of the modern high demand for plastic bags. In recent years the Japanese Ministry of the Environment organized several campaigns to promote the use of furoshiki again and ensure environmental protection in Japan and worldwide. Modern day Furoshiki are often used instead of bags to wrap and transport lunch boxes, double as a tablecloth, wall decoration, a fashion accessory, a wine bottle holder, drapes ... the list is endless!
Link believes Japanese craftsmanship is second to none in terms of quality and attention to detail. It's because of this that all of their furoshiki are hand-printed and sewn in Fujisawa, Japan by a family-owned business with over 50 years experience in furoshiki production. Japan's craftsmen often spend a lifetime perfecting their artistry and much of that skill and knowledge is being lost as today’s mass production, cost cutting and on-demand culture drives more business decisions. Invaluable knowhow is disappearing as tools are put down, and the last small factories and workshops die out.
They hope to play a part in keeping these crafts alive by showing what can be achieved when creativity and craftsmanship come together and we are honored to support their endeavors.