Saturday, August 22, 2009


Mottainai (もったいない, 勿体無い) is a Japanese term meaning "a sense of regret concerning waste when the intrinsic value of an object or resource is not properly utilized." It is originally a buddhist term that refers to the essence of things. It also applies to everything in the physical universe, suggesting that objects do not exist in isolation but are intrinsically linked to one

Nai is a negation, and an expression of sadness over the repudiation of the ties linking all living and nonliving entities. It is also a concept that reestablishes such bonds and reasserts the importance of treating all animate and inanimate objects with great care. It can be understood as "What a waste", or the misuse of something that can be made valuable. It is finding the Buddha in the fabric.

It is similar to the concept of Gaia. Gaia is the Greek supreme goddess of Earth. The Gaia concept is an ecological hypothesis that the Earth is a self regulating complex interacting system that maintains everything, and that the climatic and biogeochemical conditions are interlocked.

The fabrics are pieced with no apparent pattern except for the aim of making a larger piece of cloth from the scraps.

They speak of decades of hardship in the home that made them. Each scrap sewn with care to cover damage incurred by use, giving it yet another life. They speak of an abhorrence of waste, of creatively making something new from something old, making something from leftovers.

The pieces are sewn together sometimes with sashiko stitches. These fabrics can be made of either cotton, hemp or a combination of both. and almost all of the pieces shown will be indigo dyed in solids, shibori, kasuri (ikat), or shima (stripe) patterns; many will have combinations of multiple patterns.

This concept was an important one for western quilters of previous centuries who creatively made something new from collages of pieces of cloth that were pieced together in specific patterns.

The Japanese used the cloth to mend holes, reinforce worn areas of sleeping futon or work clothes. The cloth is layered to increase warmth and durability. The cloths are used to make futon, cushion covers (zabuton), furoshiki, dust and floor rags. Created because of the need for mending cloth, it is an unplanned art form. They are what happens when design and composition are intuitive and what exists determines the possibilities.

The sheer variety of tones of indigo, the juxtaposition of pattern, the scale changes between patterns and patches, the free-form and meandering stitching, the random assortment of color combinations is very beautiful.

The images of boro and ranru are used with the permission of