Repair as a Sign of Life // Emil

Repair as a Sign of Life // Emil

I’m not going to pretend to have any strong skill for sewing. What ability I do have is mostly used in mending clothes for Ace and myself. I’d been interested in the idea of visible mending for some time, seeing the interweaved threads of hand-me-down sweaters or the gold cracked bowls of kintsugi.

Somewhere along the way I learned about sashiko. Sashiko is a form of Japanese hand stitching often used in mending and strengthening fabric.  Starting out simply searching tutorials for how to apply the method, I fell into a rabbit hole, researching the history, application, and its cultural significance to Japan.

Sashiko has recently gained admiration outside of Japan, both for its aesthetic and as a method of sustainable fashion. It even made its way into the high fashion world, featured as a part of Louis Vuitton’s 2013 men’s line. But the origin of sashiko is a humble one, born out of necessity in the Edo period. Used by impoverished families to repair and reinforce clothing and textiles, sashiko was not an art, but a part of survival. It was a mark of the lower class who were unable to afford to replace garments as they wore away. Boro, which is the result of this mending process repeated over generations, now has important historical significance. These artifacts show us a rare glimpse into the life of the anonymous menders, who otherwise have very little written records. Today there are still craftsmen who practice the traditional sashiko method, carrying on the cultural history.

I reflected on what I’d learned. How interesting even in the harshest conditions, human beings find a way to create something lasting and beautiful (though perhaps the original crafters would disagree with the latter). Still, it made me rethink the idea of visible repair such as scars and patches as a sign of life lived.

For the original artworks of Sashiko Planner Stickers, I drew and painted running stitches across loose watercolor swatches, inspired by sashiko. Thinking of indigo dyes and faded fabrics, I used various blue shades in imperfect washes on the paper. The stickers are designed to patch over written plans that weren’t to be. But the semi-transparent washi texture doesn’t completely hide what is underneath, instead faintly melding it with the painted textures. To acknowledge it as part of the layers of change that when seen on a wider scale are a part of the whole.

Life doesn’t fall into a perfect plan. Though it’s always true for me, when I look back at the pages of my planner in spring 2020 it was especially obvious. I still struggle daily to let go of what “should have been” for what came to be. I think part of that process for me has been to find a way to acknowledge the change (and my feelings surrounding it) as a part of the whole. It’s a work in progress, but I think that by patching, rather than scratching out, my expectations I’m able to reframe the situation in a more positive light.

Resources from Japanese crafters practicing sashiko:

Text and photos by: Emil 
Where to find Emil: @everydayemil

Read other stories by Emil : Here

BK Artifacts featured: 
Planner Sticker // Sashiko

1 comment

  • Mary: June 05, 2021
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    These are beautiful stickers and it helps to know the story and meaning behind them. Thank you 💕

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