I got a piece Boro... so is it disrespectful to add Stitching?

I got a piece Boro... so is it disrespectful to add Stitching?

While a word "Boro" start getting its meaning based on what the people want to hear about, I sometime receive a well-thought, kind, and very respectful questions about Boro & Sashiko.

[Atsushi, I got a piece of Boro (purchased from a store or given by a friend). Is it disrespectful to stitch on the Boro Piece? I wouldn't want to do anything disrespectful as understanding what Sashiko & Boro are for the Japanese people.]


I understand how they feel, and I really appreciate it. However, in my understanding, adding the stitching on the vintage piece is NOT disrespecting at all. In fact, it is more like a "Respecting" side. 

This question may come from its aesthetic aspect of Sashiko and Boro. I agree they are beautiful, yet "how beautiful it look" is just one aspect of the stitching practice. When one consider Sashiko (and a piece of Boro) as the "Fine Art", then I completely understand that they wouldn't want to add another line of stitching as I wouldn't want to put some paint on the Fine Art Masterpiece.


For me, Sashiko/Boro is not Art. Sashiko/Boro "can be" the Art, but it is more like how we understand it rather than "what it is". 


When we receive/purchase a piece of Boro, we carefully wash them first to purify them. The piece can carry not only the physical dirt, but also some "feelings" from the previous owners - both positive (such as Joy & Happiness) and negative (such as Greed and Envy). Water also remove the smell, too. 


Again, when one consider a piece of Boro as a "Fine Art", they probably do not want to wash them as it may damage the piece itself. However, for us, the Boro is one piece of fabric which may have further life as a piece of Fabric. Sashiko & act of stitching is the way to connect us to them - and it is a way to respect what they have done. 


Keiko often enjoy stitching on the vintage fabric as she can feel the existance of the previous one who stitched on it by following the existing stitches. She sympathizes herself with the Japanese in the Past via stitching. It is a way to "connecting" over the years. It is how we to understand what Boro is, and the vehicle to do so is, for us, "Sashiko". 

When we stitch in the rhythm, especially the Unshin we teach, one can probably feel this "interesting moment" - stitching with/in the past relatively easily. Therefore, I keep teaching Sashiko, and its core & essence as Unshin.


Once one add the stitching to the existing piece of Boro, then they simply become a person of the history of Boro. They may be the last one who stitch, or the piece may be passed down to someone for another ritual of stitching. Either way, it is very much the core of Sashiko & Boro, and I feel very much respected when I observe it.


Only case that I could think of as "being disrespectful" would be when one doesn't "acknowledge" the stories of Sashiko & Boro. When they ignore the stories to achieve their own convenience (profit, goal, or even aesthetic purpose), it may be an act of disrespectful. It really depends on how a stitcher would feel like... and how much they are willing to learn.

One example would be damaging fabric with sand-paper on purpose. This "may" be a disrespectful action as the piece of Boro can be an outcome of extreme situation of "No-Choice but stitching". 


If one says that they can do whatever they want as a piece of Boro is just an Art, then I would ask them to learn the stories more to avoid any disrespect.

If one says that they worry for the possibility of doing something disrespectful, my answer would be "Don't Worry. Just Enjoy, and hopefully keep learning".


It is NOT the natural way to keep a piece of Boro in the cloth-box for a long time as the purpose of Sashiko Stitched Fabric is "being Used by someone". The mainstage of one textile is to be worn as a garment. We would like to bring out "Boro" (which can be expressed as piece of trash and waste) to the mains tage of the fabric. Therefore, we sometimes list the Boro pieces after we add minimum, yet important stitching to be part of the history.


As trend goes, there are many opportunities to find and purchase a Boro piece. Please do not be scared too much for being disrespectful. All we ask is "acknowlegement", and once they try to do so with stitching, it will be the best way to appreciate the culture of Sashiko & Boro.



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