Making knots with wishes and spirits in mind Featured

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  • Thursday, 23 February 2023 00:14
Published in ART & CULTURE  

Making knots with wishes and spirits in mind

The Art of Mizuhiki

There are many theories about the origin of mizuhiki or decorative rice paper cord. Some experts say mizuhiki dates back to the early 7th century. When the Japanese traveled abroad, they would tie and wrap souvenirs for the emperor’s family using white-and-red-dyed hemp strings. Th e same materials and methods used today were established around this time. Later, mizuhiki came to be used as decoration for gifts. The most familiar use of mizuhiki for the Japanese is when it’s attached to the bags used to wrap gifts and money for weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies. Mizuhiki is said to seal one’s feelings, such as for a married friend, a deceased person, or a bereaved family member. The ornamentation is an incidental element. To find out more, I talked to two mizuhiki artists who work in Tokyo and Kyoto. They did not begin their careers as artists, but after discovering mizuhiki, they both chose the path of traditional crafts as if they were guided by mizuhiki. By learning more about them and the direction they aim to take, I was able to understand the aesthetic sense and philosophy that runs deep within traditional Japanese crafts.

Basic Knowledge of Mizuhiki

TJ: What materials are used to make mizuhiki?
The core of the string is made of traditional Japanese washi paper. The string is then hardened with water glue to prevent it from unraveling. Color is added using dyes, rolled paper, and thread. There is no metal wire. The unique tension is a characteristic of washi paper string.

TJ: How do you make paper string?
You take a piece of washi that is about 2 cm wide and twist and turn it to make a string less than 1 mm in diameter. The string is then hardened with water glue, painted with colors, and wrapped with thin paper or thin thread of about 1 mm in a spiral shape. The diameter of the finished string is about 1 mm. You can find it cut into lengths of 90 cm in stores.

TJ: What is the basic mizuhiki knot?
It is called awabi musubi. Awabi is Japanese for “abalone.” Awabi musubi has the characteristic of being tied tightly when both ends are pulled, and its shape means “long life.” There are other knots derived from awabi musubi, such as the ume musubi, kame musubi, and matsu musubi. A series of awabi musubi can be connected to form a sphere, or they can be cut short and twisted to form a pine needle. Braids can be combined to form a threedimensional shape.

The complete article can be found in Issue #281 of the Tokyo Journal.

水引の起源には諸説あるが、その歴史は 7 世紀初頭までさかのぼるとも言われる。当時、外国に渡った日本人が帰国する際、麻製の紐(ひも)を白と赤に染め分け、天皇家への献上品を結んで包んだことがその始まりだ。その後、贈 答品の装飾として水引が用いられるようになった。平安時代になると、日本の伝統的な紙「和紙」を用いた紙紐が生まれ、その紙紐で水引が作られ始める。現在の素材と技法は、この頃に成立した。日本人にとって最もなじみ深いのは、冠婚葬祭のときに贈答品や紙幣を包む袋に付ける水引だ。結婚した友人への思い、亡くなった人や遺族への思いなど、自分の気持ちをしっかりと封じ込めて贈るために、結ぶ形の水引を用いるとされている。装飾性は付随する要素なのだ。今号、京都と東京で活動する 2 人の水引作家に話を聞いた。彼らは、最初から作家を目指していたのではなかった。水引と出合い、導かれるように伝統工芸の道を選んだそうだ。そのきっかけや経緯、活動内容とともに、水引作家として目指す方向性を語ってもらうことで、日本の伝統工芸の奥底に流れる美意識や思想に触れることができた。

Q: 水引は、どのような材料から作られているのですか?

Q: 紙紐はどのように作るのですか?
約 2cm の幅の和紙を使います。ねじったりひねったりすることで直径1mm に満たないくらいの紐にします。その紐を水のりで固めてから、色を塗って、1mmくらいの薄い紙や、細い糸を螺旋(らせん)状に巻いていきます。できあがった紐の直径は、大体 1mmくらいです。お店などでは、長さ 90cm に切られたものが売られています。

Q: 水引の基本の結び方にはどのようなものがありますか?


この記事の全容は Tokyo Journal #281号 にてお読みいただけます。

Written By:

Noe Fukuzawa


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