Postcard from... Kyoto

After inviting readers, friends and makers I admire to explain how their location influences their craft , I'm delighted to be hosting a series of 'Postcards' from various people in different parts of the world. Today's comes all the way from Japan, where Michelle Baggerman is helping to combine tradition and technology. Read to the bottom of the post to see how you can join in too.


Greetings from Kyoto! 
As I’m riding my bike around the city, I often hit the breaks when another scene of beauty unfolds in one of the alleys I’m passing. It can be a shrine or a temple, a tiny garden someone created on a few inches of pavement, or a tea shop with the most exquisite sweets in the window. I hardly get anywhere without stopping at least a few times to admire all the beautiful things around me.

My portrait from the International Manga Museum, Kyoto
Kyoto is incredibly rich in crafts, and it’s no wonder. As the former capital of Japan, royalty have lived here for centuries, interested in only the finest and most beautiful items that would confirm their status and good taste. Many of the craft traditions from that age are still being practiced and examples of them can in found around temples, palaces, galleries and workshops around the city. Whenever I’m out and about, I’m surrounded by a constant source of inspiration and admiration.


However, many craftspeople practicing the traditional crafts are struggling. Their work is appreciated by older generations, but most young people see it as old fashioned and expensive. With their work having mostly historical value, but little value in everyday life, more and more of them go out of business and their knowledge is lost. Fortunately, some of the traditional businesses are beginning to  see that in order to preserve their traditions, and for them to be relevant again, they need to allow some changes. 


This isn’t easy in a hierarchical society where it is uncommon for a younger person to tell an elder/superior to do something differently. Lucky for me, this doesn’t apply so much to foreigners. In fact it’s why I’m here. I’ve got the honor to be working with a silk weaver who dares to experiment and allows me to try crazy things with his beautiful textiles, as well as some wonderful people from the Kyoto Institute of Technology and KYOTO Design-Lab supporting me. 

Photo Credit: Juuke Schoorl
Using my experience in innovation in craft textile and focus on sustainability, I’m trying to (carefully) break traditions and create new, future-proof scenario’s for a very special textile, that will not survive if it can only exist in a traditional context. It’s a wonderful adventure and I know for sure that as I’m making changes, I’m also being changed myself. There are so many beautiful things, traditions and techniques to I absorb, that I hope will stay with me and inspire my work after I go home. If you’d like to know more, you can see the first results in this video

Sayonara from Japan, 
Michelle
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Find out more about Michelle's projects on her website (here). You can also see more of her lovely photos of Kyoto on Instagram

If you are taking inspiration from your home location or your travels, please join in too! Share your images and stories on social media with the tag #makerspostcards and tag me (@craftsfromthecwtch) so I'll get notified of your post.  

3 comments

  1. What a lovely, informative post! Thank you, Michelle, for this cultural lesson, and thank you, Sarah, for bringing Michelle's words to us. This is a great idea, and I can't wait for the next installment.

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it Judy. There are lots more to come.... stay tuned :)

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  2. Love the idea for this series - Japan is definitely high on my list of places to visit. Can't wait to read the next installment! :)

    ReplyDelete

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