Travel Highlights : NUNO and BORO

Earlier this month we visited Hokkaido, Japan and had a chance to see an exhibition of NUNO Corporation’s textiles. I first came across NUNO was when I was researching for an essay about innovative textile in the library of my college. I remember looking at images of their textiles in the books with great admiration for the innovation and artistry of their designs where an array of unusual materials ranging from stainless steel and aluminium to newspaper and bird feathers are featured. How did they make this fabric? What processes are involved? What kind of technology did they use? Can this really be done on a machine? What is this fiber? What is the inspiration for this design? How much time does it take to produce this fabric? I had so much curiosity and fascination from just seeing pictures of their textiles and so I felt very lucky and excited that there would be an exhibition just when I planned to be in Hokkaido.

The exhibition was held in a small gallery space in a hotel in Sapporo. Two large tubular envelopments made of NUNO textile swatches patched together were on display. One is a vibrant and colourful circular tube while another one is a compilation of subdued off-white pieces rich in both textures and delicateness. Apart from admiring and touching the front sides of these wonderful fabric swatches, you could also walk inside these envelopments and inspect the back side of each different one.

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Other than the two main textile exhibits, several boards of design developments were also humbly displayed on the wall. It was interesting to see how some of their cutting-edge and complicated textiles were initially developed from simple and straight-forward hand processes such as laying stickers on paper, folding origami, making paper cut-outs or dyeing fabrics with rust.

Some of NUNO textile products such as scarves, bags and pillows were also featured in the exhibition space. Although I was never able to categorise NUNO textiles into fashion or interior purposes because of their avant-garde qualities, it was refreshing to see how their textiles can be wearable and interior products for everyday lives. The exhibition space was small but we found ourselves spending quite a lot of time there while being pleasurably immersed in the world of NUNO textiles. It was an inspirational moment to be able to see and touch the the beautiful collection of textiles from a company with fascinating innovation that expands the boundaries of contemporary textile design.

After Hokkaido we spent some time in Tokyo where decided to visit Amuse museum in Asakusa to see their exhibition on Japanese Boro textiles. Despite the garish exterior of the building and the touristy museum shop, the exhibition itself was exquisite. The collection of Boro garments is expansive and the history of each piece is fascinating. All the boro clothes were made purely for retaining warmth in the snowy areas and for its longevity in places where obtaining cloth is difficult. Patches of cloth and scraps were layered on top of one another and each stitch was painstakingly done by hand. Large robes made with think layers of hemp and patches of old cloth were used as cover blankets for families to sleep in during the night while cuddling inside to keep warm. Kimonos were hand woven, worn and fixed with stitches countless times while being passed down for four generations. Each piece of garment is filled with delicate history. While most places would not allow for viewers to touch their boro exhibits, you can touch and feel the pieces displayed in Amuse museum. The exhibition also featured some Kogin-sashi garments, Ainu clothes and Jomon pottery.

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