The Japanese Traditions of Sashiko & Boro: The Centuries-Old Craft That Mends Clothes in a Sustainable, Artistic Way

The state of our troubled planet dictates that disposables are out.

Reusables are in.

And anyone who’s taught themselves how to mend and maintain their stuff has earned the right to flaunt it!

A quick scroll through Instagram reveals loads of visible mending projects that highlight rather than disguise the area of repair, drawing the eye to contrasting threads reinforcing a threadbare knee, frayed cuff, ragged rip, or moth hole.




While some practitioners take a freeform approach, the most pleasing stitches tend to be in the sashiko tradition.

Sashiko—frequently translated as “little stabs”—was born in Edo period Japan (1603-1868), when rural women attempted to prolong the life of their families’ tattered garments and bedding, giving rise to a humble form of white-on-indigo patchwork known as boro.

While sashiko can at times be seen serving a purely decorative function, such as on a very well preserved Meiji period jacket in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection, its primary use was always one born of necessity.

As Austin Bryant notes on Heddels, a news and education website dedicated to sustainable goods:

Over generations of families, these textiles would acquire more and more patches, almost to the point of the common observer being unable to recognize where the original fabric began. As they recovered after the end of World War II, to some the boro textiles reminded the Japanese of their impoverished rural past.

Keiko & Atsushi Futatsuya are a mother-and-son artisan team whose posts on sashiko and boro go beyond straightforward how-tos to delve into cultural history.

According to them, the goal of sashiko should not be aesthetically pleasing rows of uniform stitches, but rather “enjoying the dialogue” with the fabric.

As Atsushi explains in an Instagram post, viewers seeing their work with a Western perspective may respond differently than those who have grown up with the elements in play:

This is a photo of a “Boro-to-be Jacket” in the process. This is the back (hiding) side of the jacket and many non-Japanese would say this should be the front and should show to the public. The Japanese would understand why it is a backside naturally, but I would need to “explain” to the non-Japanese who do not share the same value (why we) purposefully make this side as “hiding” side. That’s why, I keep sharing in words. One picture may be worth a thousand words, but the thousand words may be completely different based on their (free) interpretation. In sharing the culture, some “actual words” would be also very important.

To try your hand at sashiko, you will need a long needle, such as a cotton darning needle, white embroidery thread, and—for boro—an aging textile in need of some attention.

Should you find yourself sliding into a full blown obsession, you may want to order sashiko needles and thread, and a palm thimble to help you push through several weights of fabric simultaneously.

You’ll find many patterns, tips, and tutorials on the Futatsuya family’s Sashi.co YouTube channel.

via Vox

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

When Andy Warhol & Edie Sedgwick, the First Couple of Pop Art, Made an Odd Appearance on the Merv Griffin Show (1965)

Andy Warhol adored television and, in a way, considered it his most formative influence. While his paintings, silkscreens, and films, and the Velvet Underground, might be all the legacy he might need, Warhol, more than anything, longed to be a TV personality. He made his first concerted effort in 1979, launching a New York public access interview show. In one of the show’s 42 episodes, Warhol sits in almost total silence while his friend Richard Berlin interviews Frank Zappa.

But Warhol hated Zappa, and hated him even more after the interview. When he talked to and about subjects he liked, he could be particularly chatty, in his deadpan way: see, for example, his interview with Alfred Hitchcock, whom he greatly admired, or early eighties Saturday Night Live spots for NBC and later eighties MTV variety show. In Warhol’s much earlier 1965 appearance on the Merv Griffin show, above, long before he made TV presenter a profession, he appears with the stunningly charismatic Edie Sedgwick, his beloved muse and original superstar, and he chooses to say almost nothing at all.




Sedgwick does the talking, informing the host that Andy, unused to making “really public appearances,” would only whisper his answers in her ear, and she would whisper them to Griffin. It’s an act, of course, but the performance of a persona that hid an even more shy, retiring character. In a textbook irony, the artist who ushered in the age of self-promoting influencers and invented the superstar could be about as engaging as a houseplant. Sedgwick, on the contrary, is characteristically enthralling.

Known as “girl of the year” in 1965, the California socialite had defected from her privileged surroundings to live in Warhol’s world. The two “fell in love platonically but intensely,” Karen Lynch writes at Blast magazine, “and their mutually beneficial relationship became the talk of the town.” Griffin introduces them as “the two leading exponents of the new scene. No party in New York is considered a success unless they are there.” This was no hyperbole, though the audience doesn’t know who they are… yet.

Sedgwick explains how they met at the Factory, where she arrived the previous year with her trust fund to introduce herself and join the scene. She more or less takes over the interview, selling Warhol’s superstar myth with eloquence and wit, and she seems so much more like today’s art stars than Warhol (who eventually gives a few one-word answers), and has arguably had as much or more influence on Gen Y and Z creators. Sedgwick was “more than aspirational stereotypes allow,” writes Lynch, and more than the fact of her untimely death at 28.

One online artistic statement of this fact, Edie’s Farm, a site for “counterfactual current events,” supposes that Sedgwick had survived her drug addiction and anorexia and continued making art (and giving makeup tutorials) into the 21st century, imagining her as her young self, not the woman in her 70s she would be. “Maybe no one’s ever had a year quite as amazing as my 1965,” the fictional Sedgwick says. “I loved Andy and his Factory. But it wasn’t a sustainable life for me”—a tragic irony impossible to ignore in watching her otherwise impossibly charming performance above.

Related Content: 

Andy Warhol Hosts Frank Zappa on His Cable TV Show, and Later Recalls, “I Hated Him More Than Ever” After the Show

Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes: Discover the Postmodern MTV Variety Show That Made Warhol a Star in the Television Age (1985-87)

Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes: Discover the Postmodern MTV Variety Show That Made Warhol a Star in the Television Age (1985-87)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

How to Speak: Watch the Lecture on Effective Communication That Became an MIT Tradition for Over 40 Years

In his legendary MIT lecture “How to Speak,” professor Patrick Winston opens with a story about seeing Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton at a Celebrity Ski Weekend. It was immediately clear to him that he was the better skier, but not because he had more innate athletic ability than an Olympic gold medalist, but because he had more knowledge and practice. These, Winston says, are the key qualities we need to become better communicators. Inherent talent helps, he says, but “notice that the T is very small. What really matters is what you know.”

What some of us know about communicating effectively could fill a greeting card, but it’s hardly our fault, says Winston. Schools that send students into the world without the ability to speak and write well are as criminally liable as officers who send soldiers into battle without weapons. For over 40 years, Winston has been trying to remedy the situation with his “How to Speak” lecture, offered every January,” notes MIT, “usually to overflow crowds.” It became “so popular, in fact, that the annual talk had to be limited to the first 300 participants.”




Now it’s available online, in both video and transcript form, in the talk’s final form from 2018 (it evolved quite a bit over the decades). Professor Winston passed away last year, but his wisdom lives on. Rather than present us with a dry theory of rhetoric and composition, the onetime director of the MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory offers “a few heuristic rules” distilled from “praxis in communication approaches that incorporate Neurolinguistics, Linguistics, Paleoanthropology, Cognitive Science and Computer Science,” writes Minnie Kasyoka.

Winston’s research on “creating machines with the same thought patterns as humans” led him to the following conclusions about effective speaking and writing—observations that have borne themselves out in the careers of thousands of public speakers, job seekers, and professionals of every kind. Many of his heuristics contradict decades of folk opinion on public speaking, as well as contemporary technological trends. For one thing, he says, avoid opening with a joke.

People still settling into their seats will be too distracted to pay attention and you won’t get the laugh. Instead, open with an analogy or a story, like his Mary Lou Retton gambit, then tell people, directly, what they’re going to get from your talk. Then tell them again. And again. “It’s a good idea to cycle on the subject,” says Winston. “Go around it. Go round it again. Go round it again.” It’s not that we should assume our audience is unintelligent, but rather that “at any given moment, about 20%” of them “will be fogged out no matter what the lecture is.” It’s just how the human mind works, shifting attention all over the place.

Like all great works on effective communication, Winston’s talk illustrates his methods as it explains them: he fills the lecture with memorable images—like “building a fence” around his idea to distinguish it from other similar ideas. He continues to use interesting little stories to make things concrete, like an anecdote about a Serbian nun who was offended by him putting his hands behind his back. This is offered in service of his lengthy defense of the blackboard, contra PowerPoint, as the ultimate visual aid. “Now, you have something to do with your hands.”

The talk is relaxed, humorous, and informative, and not a step-by-step method. As Winston says, you can dip in and out of the copious advice he presents, taking rules you think might work best for your particular style of communication and your communication needs. We should all, he emphasizes, hone our own way of speaking and writing. But, “while he never explicitly stresses the ultimate need for rhetorical devices,” Kasyoka points out, he demonstrates that they are imperative.

Professor Winston masterfully uses persuasive techniques to hammer on this point. For example, the use of anadiplosis, that is the repetition of a clause in a sentence for emphasis, is very manifest in this snippet from his talk: “Your careers will be determined largely by how well you speak, by how well you write, and by the quality of your ideas… in that order.” 

How do we learn to use rhetoric as effectively as Winston? We listen to and read effective rhetoric like his. Do so in the video lecture at the top and on the “How to Speak” course page, which has transcripts for download and additional resources for further study.

Related Content:

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Novelist Cormac McCarthy Gives Writing Advice to Scientists … and Anyone Who Wants to Write Clear, Compelling Prose

The Shape of A Story: Writing Tips from Kurt Vonnegut

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Jazz-Zither-Piano-Man Laraaji Discusses His Decades of Meditative Improvisations: A Nakedly Examined Music Podcast Conversation (#134)

Jazz multi-instrumentalist Edward Larry Gordon Jr. became Laraaji around the same time he started releasing meditative zither music in the late 70s and was then discovered by Brian Eno, who produced “The Dance No. 1” from  Ambient 3: Day of Radiance (1980). Laraaji has since had around 40 releases of largely improvised music, and this interview (below) explores his approach toward improvisation on numerous instruments, playing “functional” music intended to aid meditation and reflection, and the evolution of Laraaji’s unique musical vision.

Each episode of Nakedly Examined Music features full-length presentations of four recordings discussed by the artist with your host Mark Linsenmayer. Here we present “Hold on to the Vision” and “Shenandoah” from Laraaji’s latest release, Sun Piano (2020), the single edit of “Introspection” from Bring On the Sun (2017), and “All of a Sudden,” a 1986 vocal tune released on Vision Songs, Vol. 1 (2017). Get more information at laraaji.blogspot.com.

Want more? Hear all of “The Dance No. 1.” Watch the live TV version of “All of a Sudden” we discuss, as well another episode of Celestrana featuring Dr. Love the puppet. Watch a similar, recent isolation stream also featuring Dr. Love and much more. Listen to the full glory of “Introspection” and the trip that is “Sun Gong.” Check out some live gong playing. Here’s a remix of “Introspection” by Dntel.

Find the archive of songwriter interviews at nakedlyexaminedmusic.com or get the ad-free feed at patreon.com/nakedlyexaminedmusic. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Nakedly Examined Music is a podcast. Mark Linsenmayer also hosts The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast and Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast, and releases music under the name Mark Lint.

Daisugi, the 600-Year-Old Japanese Technique of Growing Trees Out of Other Trees, Creating Perfectly Straight Lumber

Image by Wrath of Gnon

We’ve all admired the elegance of Japan’s traditional styles of architecture. Their development required the kind of dedicated craftsmanship that takes generations to cultivate — but also, more practically speaking, no small amount of wood. By the 15th century, Japan already faced a shortage of seedlings, as well as land on which to properly cultivate the trees in the first place. Necessity being the mother of invention, this led to the creation of an ingenious solution: daisugi, the growing of additional trees, in effect, out of existing trees — creating, in other words, a kind of giant bonsai.

“Written as 台杉 and literally meaning platform cedar, the technique resulted in a tree that resembled an open palm with multiple trees growing out if it, perfectly vertical,” writes Spoon and Tamago’s Johnny Waldman. “Done right, the technique can prevent deforestation and result in perfectly round and straight timber known as taruki, which are used in the roofs of Japanese teahouses.”




These teahouses are still prominent in Kyoto, a city still known for its traditional cultural heritage, and not coincidentally where daisugi first developed. “It’s said that it was Kyoto’s preeminent tea master, Sen-no-rikyu, who demanded perfection in the Kitayama cedar during the 16th century,” writes My Modern Met’s Jessica Stewart.

At the time “a form of very straight and stylized sukiya-zukuri architecture was high fashion, but there simply weren’t nearly enough raw materials to build these homes for every noble or samurai who wanted one,” says a thread by Twitter account Wrath of Gnon, which includes these and other photos of daisugi in action. “Hence this clever solution of using bonsai techniques on trees.” Aesthetics aside — as far aside as they ever get in Japan, at any rate — “the lumber produced in this method is 140% as flexible as standard cedar and 200% as dense/strong,” making it “absolutely perfect for rafters and roof timber.” And not only is daisugi‘s product straight, slender, and typhoon-resistant, it’s marveled at around the world 600 years later. Of how many forestry techniques can we say the same?

via Spoon and Tamago

Related Content:

The Art & Philosophy of Bonsai

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The Secret Language of Trees: A Charming Animated Lesson Explains How Trees Share Information with Each Other

The Social Lives of Trees: Science Reveals How Trees Mysteriously Talk to Each Other, Work Together & Form Nurturing Families

A Digital Animation Compares the Size of Trees: From the 3-Inch Bonsai, to the 300-Foot Sequoia

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe

What shall we read before bed?

Georgia O’Keeffe was a fan of cookbooks, telling her young assistant Margaret Wood that they were “enjoyable nighttime company, providing brief and pleasant reading.”

Among the culinary volumes in her Abiquiu, New Mexico ranch home were The Fanny Farmer Boston Cooking School CookbookThe Joy of CookingLet’s Eat Right to Keep Fit and Cook Right, Live Longer.

Also Pickups and Cheerups from the Waring Blender, a 21-page pamphlet featuring blended cocktails, that now rests in Yale University’s Beinecke Library, along with the rest of the contents of O’Keeffe’s recipe box, acquired the night before it was due to be auctioned at Sotheby’s. (Some of the images on this page come courtesy of Sotheby’s.)




In addition to recipes—inscribed by the artist’s own hand in ink from a fountain pen, typed by assistants, clipped from magazines and newspapers, or in promotional booklets such as the one published by the Waring Products Company—the box housed manuals for O’Keeffe’s kitchen appliances.

The booklet that came with her pressure cooker includes a spattered page devoted to cooking fresh veggies, a testament to her abiding interest in eating healthfully.

O’Keeffe had a high regard for salads, garden fresh herbs, and simple, locally sourced food.

Today’s buddha bowl craze is, however, “the opposite of what she would enjoy” according to Wood, author of the books Remembering Miss O’Keeffe: Stories from Abiquiu and A Painter’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe.

Wood, who was some 66 years younger than her employer, recently visited The Sporkful podcast to recall her first days on the job :

…she said, “Do you like to cook?” 

And I said, “Yes, I certainly do.” 

So she said, “Well, let’s give it a try.” 

And after two days of my hippie health food, she said, “My dear, let me show you how I like my food.” My first way of trying to cook for us was a lot of brown rice and chopped vegetables with chicken added. And that was not what she liked. 

An example of what she did like: Roasted lemon chicken with fried potatoes, a green salad featuring lettuce and herbs from her garden, and steamed broccoli.

Also yogurt made with the milk of local goats, whole wheat flour ground on the premises, watercress plucked from local streams, and home canning.

Most of these labor-intensive tasks fell to her staff, but she maintained a keen interest in the proceedings.

Not for nothing did the friend who referred Wood for the job warn her it would “require a lot of patience because Miss O’Keeffe was extremely particular.”

The jottings from the recipe box don’t really convey this exacting nature.

Those accustomed to the extremely specific instructions accompanying even the simplest recipes to be found on the Internet may be shocked by O’Keeffe’s brevity.

 

Perhaps we should assume that she stationed herself close by the first time any new hire prepared a recipe from one of her cards, knowing she would have to verbally correct and redirect.

(O’Keeffe insisted that Wood stir according to her method—don’t scrape the sides, dig down and lift up.)

The box also contained recipes that were likely rarities on O’Keeffe’s table, given her dietary preferences, though they are certainly evocative of the period: tomato aspic, Maryland fried chickenFloating Islands, and a cocktail she may have first sipped in a Santa Fe hotel bar.

The Beinecke plans to digitize its newly acquired collection. This gives us hope that one day, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum may follow suit with the red recipe binder Wood mentions in A Painter’s Kitchen:

This was affectionately referred to as “Mary’s Book,” named after a previous staff member who had compiled it. That notebook was continually consulted, and revised to include new recipes or to improve on older ones…. As she had collected a number of healthy and flavorful recipes, she would occasionally laugh and comment, “We should write a cookbook.”

Related Content: 

Explore 1,100 Works of Art by Georgia O’Keeffe: They’re Now Digitized and Free to View Online

Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life in Art, a Short Documentary on the Painter Narrated by Gene Hackman

The Art & Cooking of Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, Georgia O’Keeffe, Vincent Van Gogh & More

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Glenn Gould Explains Why Mozart Was a Bad Composer in a Controversial Public TV Show (1968)

No matter how eccentric Glenn Gould’s interpretations of major composers might have been, his friend and promoter Leonard Bernstein found them worthy of performance, even if he didn’t quite agree. In “The Truth About a Legend,” his tribute essay to Gould after the pianist’s death, Bernstein wrote, “Any discovery of Glenn’s was welcomed by me because I worshipped the way he played: I admired his intellectual approach, his ‘guts’ approach.”

Are these contradictions? Glenn Gould was a complicated man, a brilliantly abstract thinker who threw his full physical being into his playing. When Gould slowed a Brahms concerto to a crawl, so slow that “it was very tiring” for the orchestra to play, he was convinced he had discovered a secret key to the tempo within the piece itself. Bernstein had profound doubts, tried several times to dissuade Gould, and warned the orchestra, “Now don’t give up, because this is a great man, whom we have to take very seriously.”




Not all of Gould’s admirers were as tolerant of Gould’s unorthodox views. In 1968, Gould presented a segment of the weekly public television series Public Broadcast Library. His topic was “How Mozart Became a Bad Composer.” This was, perhaps suffice to say, a very unpopular opinion. “The program outraged viewers in both the United States and Canada, including formerly sympathetic fans and critics,” Kevin Bazzana writes in Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould. It would never again air anywhere and was only recently digitized from 2-inch tape found in the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center.

Gould opens the show with a selection from Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C Minor, then in his critical commentary, alleges the piece “has had a rather better press than it deserves, I think. Despite it’s gently swooning melodies, its meticulously balanced cadences, despite its stable and architecturally unexceptionable form, I’m going to submit it as a good example of why I think Mozart, especially in his later years, was not a very good composer.” Then Gould really digs in, casually comparing Mozart’s “dependable” craftsmanship to “the way that an accounts executive dispatches an interoffice memo.”

It is a shocking thing to say, and Gould, of course, knows it. Is this hubris, or is he deliberately provoking his audience? “Glenn had strong elements of sportsmanship and teasing,” Bernstein writes, “the kind of daring which accounts for his freshness.” His contrariness might have inspired at least a few viewers to listen critically and carefully to Mozart for the first time, without hundreds of years of received opinion mediating the experience. This is the spirit in which we should view Gould’s erudite iconoclasm, says Library of Congress Music Reference Specialist James Wintle: to learn to listen with new ears, “as a child,” to a composer we have “been conditioned to revere.”

Gould’s unpopular opinions “did not always take a turn toward the negative,” Wintle writes. He championed the works of less-than-popular composers like Paul Hindemith and Jean Sibelius. And his “great sense of inquiry,” Bernstein wrote, “made him suddenly understand Schoenberg and Liszt in the same category, or Purcell and Brahms, or Orlando Gibbons and Petula Clark. He would suddenly bring an unlikely pair of musicians together in some kind of startling comparative essay.” Gould’s musical inventiveness, taste, and judgment were unparalleled, Bernstein maintained, and for that reason, we should always be inclined to hear him out.

Related Content: 

How Glenn Gould’s Eccentricities Became Essential to His Playing & Personal Style: From Humming Aloud While Playing to Performing with His Childhood Piano Chair

Watch a 27-Year-Old Glenn Gould Play Bach & Put His Musical Genius on Display (1959)

Glenn Gould’s Heavily Marked-Up Score for the Goldberg Variations Surfaces, Letting Us Look Inside His Creative Process

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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