A few years ago, I visited the Nonohanasome Kobo, a dyeing studio in Yamagata, to see the local oitamatsugumi silk. As I longingly gazed at the beautiful pieces of plant-dyed fabric, a craftsman wove a basket out of vines of mountain grape to the side. Mr. Suwa spoke of how that particular year’s grapevine was quite good, that he had no idea how the following year’s crop would fare, and that there were no two baskets alike.
Mr. Suwa’s personal basket had been dyed amber and was approaching a grape color. I was told that, after years of use, the oils from the owner’s hands change the colors like so. I had long wanted a basket woven out of grapevine, so I decided it was the perfect opportunity to put in an order. I pictured how a tightly woven type would be versatile for both kimono-style and also western-style looks (but because of its difficulty, there are not many craftsmen who can do the tight weave), and how I didn’t want it to be too big, but it would be great to be able to fit my wallet, pencil case, makeup bag, A4-sized documents folded in half… Half a year after much thinking and finally ordering, my own personal basket arrived.
A basket, woven by a single craftsman, is evidence of what the hand can accomplish.
A bottle of wine purchased for a friend’s birthday fits inside perfectly. Every day, with love, I stroke and stroke it, wishing for the oils on my hands to become part of the basket.
Written & Photographed by Yuriko E