Mana Akihara arrived midday yesterday. It's only been half a day we've had her but I feel as though we've been discussing weaving for years. She grew up in Nishiwaki, northeast of Kobe, a region known for Banshu Ori cotton weaving. Many mills appear to be three-generation old, so not very old for Japan, but they promote the dyed-in-the-yarn aspect, and are known for their stripes and checks. The town is apparently full of dye places and family-owned mills to this day.
Although she grew up in her grandfather's and father's mill, she wasn't interested in textiles until a chance meeting in Osaka with her current employer and our hero, one Mr Okido, who happens to be from Nishiwaki. And it turned out there had been apprentice relationships in previous generations between the two families/companies as well.
So far I've learned how much of a renegade Mr Okido is in his innovation and breadth of collaboration, so Mana's workplace is not a typical Banshu Ori mill. We're trying to learn the difference between handweaving and mill-weaving. In mills, the faster the machine the harder the beat, and of course mill-woven results in much harder cloth than handwoven, ergo generally easier to sew.
I'm finding out more about paper (washi) threads in practical cloth. She's wearing a few of them, so not just experimental but practical and surprisingly hard-wearing items. And even though she knows weaving is a time consuming business, she has renewed respect for what we do, as most of us do most/all the work ourselves, from making the warp, threading, sleying, and finishing, whereas they have professionals who take care of various stages of their process, and a machine to tie on a new warp to the old!
Today we're off to breakfast in a cafe, a stroll in town, then to Pat's for lunch and looking at her tapestry work and looms, Ikat, Kakishibu, and I'm sure Pat has questions about things Japanese. (She knows far more about Japanese textiles and traditions than I do, so I learn things from Pat.) Mana is also a camera/photography enthusiast, so she and Ben has some one-on-one time coming up, too, I'm sure.