Accepted Paper:

Creativity in response to the call of contemporary clothing: two textile makers of Okinawa  


Amanda Stinchecum (Independent Scholar Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies)

Paper short abstract:

Two Okinawan weavers use traditional materials and techniques to make cloth based on a contemporary sensibility in tune with global fashion, contrasting with local textiles made by government-subsidized cooperatives and commercial workshops, limited by regulations and lack of creative vision.

Paper long abstract:

My paper focuses on two independent weavers in Okinawa prefecture, Japan. Using traditional materials and techniques of weaving and dyeing, each makes textiles based on a creative sensibility very much in tune with contemporary clothing in Japan and with global fashion. Problems associated with choosing this path include the absence of financial support for textile makers whose work does not fit comfortably within the category of "traditional"; the cost of textiles made entirely by hand, nearly excluding them from the rapidly-changing world of "fashion"'; the fragility of the cloth, particularly when subjected to machine stitching; and the fugitive nature of natural dyes, requiring special care to wear and maintain.

The work of these two artists contrasts with efforts to expand into "fashion" of more commercialized and tightly organized workshops, and also with government-subsidized, rigidly regulated cooperatives that produce hand-woven "traditional" textiles in Okinawa. This type of subsidy often imposes onerous conditions on production that requires strict repetition of design and technique. Within this context of producing goods based in a re-imagined past, a certain amount of disregard for materials and methods detract from the appeal of these products. Although some commercialized workshops, on the other hand, have achieved a degree of stability, without the artistic vision embodied by the independent weavers, the indifferent design of products that attempt to go beyond strictly delineated traditional forms tends to limit their markets to the realm of souvenirs.

Panel WIM-CHAT05
Fashionable tradition: innovation and continuity in the production and consumption of handmade textiles and crafts