thinking about boro

Every time I see some board on Pinterest, or some blog post somewhere, fetishizing boro cloths, I wince. The handmade moment was supposed to be about (I thought) using up what we had, minimizing our use of new materials. Getting out of the loop of capital. But instead there’s a pressure to buy more and more (and the effects of our buying are just shifted down the production line—to textile factories instead of garment ones). And buying new fabrics to make a quilt that you call a boro is not a boro. It can’t be (although the deconstructionist in me does not agree with this sharp distinction, and the boro-lover in me would like to make one). The boro as we have it, as an inheritance from a Japan which no longer exists, is the preservation and reuse and continued use of materials which are precious because they have been made oneself (one knows the value of a cloth one has had to make from the very beginning—planting hemp or flax, tending it, harvesting it, spinning it, weaving it, dying it). It is also the reuse and preservation of these materials that make the cloths so beautiful and various. That can’t be forged. Age can’t be forged. The passage of time can’t be hastened so that I can have something beautiful now. The boro takes time, takes use, and takes patience. My impatience, the impatience of capitalism which wants everything now and makes me want everything now can’t change that. Boro = materials + time.

(3) Comments

  1. Boro is new to me and I appreciate your wonderful description. Something made of our hands, of our hearts, with our whole selves, with intention, brings an emotional element to an item–for me that is where its’ value and beauty lies. Is it possible our desire for that feeling/authenticity adds to our impatience and fools us into thinking it can be bought?

  2. I have been thinking about that idea of effects shifted down the production line as I’ve seen reviews of “Overdressed” on a number of sewing blogs recently, the idea being that sewing one’s own clothes is a way to avoid participating in “the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion” but I am not so sure. That said, I buy new clothing and new fabric from time to time so I don’t like to cast stones.

    I like the idea that it “takes use” to make a boro, as if the use actually becomes part of the physical object, a boro is a noun that contains a verb.

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