Watch a Transfixing Demonstration of Kumihimo, the Ancient Japanese Artform of Making Braids & Cords

It’s easy to see why kumi­hi­mo, the ancient Japan­ese art of silk braid­ing, is described as a med­i­ta­tive act.

The weaver achieves an intri­cate design by get­ting into a rhyth­mic groove, over­lap­ping hand-dyed silken threads on a cir­cu­lar or rec­tan­gle wood­en loom, from which up to 50 weight­ed-wood­en bob­bins dan­gle.

If the mind wan­ders too far from the task, the weaver risks screw­ing up the pat­tern or the uni­for­mi­ty of the threads’ ten­sion. The word kumi­hi­mo trans­lates to “gath­er­ing threads” — one mustn’t let them get snarled by a lack of atten­tion.

While sim­ple braids of tree bark or plant fiber have been found in Japan­ese bur­ial sites dat­ing back six thou­sand years, the Gold­en Age of kumi­hi­mo occurred dur­ing the Heian peri­od (794‑1185), when exquis­ite­ly detailed cords began to be incor­po­rat­ed into the nobility’s gar­ments, dec­o­ra­tive fur­nish­ings, musi­cal instru­ments, reli­gious imple­ments, and, most famous­ly, samu­rai arms and armor.

Ani­me fans may recall how kumi­hi­mo shows up and serves as a major metaphor in Mako­to Shinkai’s hit ani­mat­ed fea­ture, Your Name - the braid­ed cords rep­re­sent­ing the threads of time and the strength of the lovers’ bond.

Kumi­hi­mo is still in use today in jew­el­ry and dec­o­ra­tive sou­venirs, and fas­ten­ing obi to for­mal kimono, though 95% of obi­jime are now machine-made.

There are plen­ty of online tuto­ri­als for novices inter­est­ed in mak­ing sim­ple kumi­hi­mo friend­ship bracelets on a light­weight foam disk, but to appre­ci­ate the beau­ty inher­ent in every step of tra­di­tion­al kumi­hi­mo  cre­ation, watch Japan House’s above video, released in cel­e­bra­tion of their recent exhib­it, KUMIHIMO: The Art of Japan­ese Silk Braid­ing by DOMYO.

ASMR fans, pre­pare to be riv­et­ed by the sounds of the silken threads being swished through a dye bath, the gen­tle clack tama bob­bins, and the tap­ping of the bam­boo hera as it snugs the threads of the grow­ing braid sus­pend­ed from the rec­tan­gu­lar stand, or takadai.

The cir­cu­lar loom, or maru­dai, seen lat­er in the video pro­duces a round­ed cord via a cen­tral hole, an engi­neer­ing feat that takes us back to our child­hood pas­sion for fin­ger knit­ting.

Japan House reports that the indus­tri­al sec­tor has tak­en inspi­ra­tion from kumi­hi­mo for braid­ing car­bon fiber and fiber-rein­forced plas­tic:

The con­ti­nu­ity of the kumi­hi­mo braid struc­ture as well as the vari­abil­i­ty of the fiber ori­en­ta­tion angle and the rigid­i­ty of the braids help pro­duce extreme­ly strong cords that can be used in prod­ucts as diverse as air­craft, golf clubs, and arti­fi­cial limbs.

Mean­while sev­er­al schools in Japan are keep­ing kumi­hi­mo alive as a tra­di­tion­al art, as is the Amer­i­can Kumi­hi­mo Soci­ety, in the West.

via Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent 

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

Watch Japan­ese Wood­work­ing Mas­ters Cre­ate Ele­gant & Elab­o­rate Geo­met­ric Pat­terns with Wood

The Art of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Wood Join­ery: A Kyoto Wood­work­er Shows How Japan­ese Car­pen­ters Cre­at­ed Wood Struc­tures With­out Nails or Glue

20 Mes­mer­iz­ing Videos of Japan­ese Arti­sans Cre­at­ing Tra­di­tion­al Hand­i­crafts

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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