A white light is floating. It is an LED lamp that illuminates the textile. The LED does not emit ultraviolet rays, so it does not seem to damage the silk thread. Silk threads that have been exposed to the sun for a long period of time become weak and brittle. In the dimly lit factory, weaving machines, machines for aligning and winding threads and shelves for placing tools are nicely arranged to form a maze-like path. Because of this, there are shadows here and there, casting darkness.
When a light is on in a different place than usual, I feel like I’ve come to an unfamiliar factory. Something is illuminated in the darkness, while other darknesses swallow what lies there. Bundles of sun-charred paper tags, 8-inch floppy disks, beautifully handwritten instructions. The poster of a Corvette car on the plywood wall looks lonely and faded, leaving only the cyan colour from the original. In this darkness, where the LED lights don’t reach, only ultraviolet rays can have infiltrated.
“It’s hot and humid today, isn’t it?”. A veteran weaver looks into the loom while wiping his sweat with a towel. The loom is powered by electricity, but everything else has to be done manually. If the warp is broken, they reconnect it by hand. If the weft is gone, they replace the bobbin and put the machine in gear. They cut the edges of the excess warp according to the required width, or tie the warp threads with different tensions on the weights to adjust them. Once they find an unwanted blemish, they untie and reweave the damaged area. They use a plastic children’s chopstick, the most suitable tool for this task, to undo the thread.
When the seemingly plain black fabric is undone, red thread like fresh blood overflows from inside. It surprises me that there is vermilion thread woven into the material. When I take a closer look later, I find tiny vermilion dots on the surface. What a way to make it work!“That’s the wonder of textile”. Every time the woven textile gently moves, the colour can be seen or hidden. The threads create a three-dimensional structure, so the appearance changes, depending on the angle. A creation, in which the image of a designer and a single thread intersect, was about to be born in a dimly lit factory.
“At first, I was wondering when I got the design drawing”, he said, while staring at the fabric on the loom. He started with half-belief, half-doubt, wondering if his weaving
method would be effective enough to express it. It seemed that the structure of the material took a lot of time and effort, from the preparation of raw materials onward.“It’s always my policy to work with people who actually visit me but I think we’re already friends”, he told me.
They have never met the designers on the other side of the screen in real life. However, meeting them is a continuation of a path made during the last 20 years. The faces of the people who connected him to this area come to mind. From a half-closed land surrounded by the sea and mountains, we have tried to reach out to the world. In the freezing winter and the melting summer, we have patiently twisted the silk thread with water dripping. The yarn twisted with water accumulates force like a spring. Untwisting after weaving creates a bouncy, mellow texture. A fresh, life-like thread connects this place with the locked-down town overseas.
Not being able to meet in person, made him feel more and more conscious of the textile.“How accurately can I respond to their image?”. Judging that a conventional method is not enough to express the delicacy of the piece, an unknown solution is sought. He would put technology into the material that cannot be seen without the use of a magnifying glass.“It was a method I had never used before, but I managed to do it”,“It was a discovery that I could use it like this”,“Thefinished textile has exceeded my imagination”. Happy messages like these came from many weavers, like children jumping for joy. One of them said that he couldn’t help sending a photo of his textile to the designer as it was literally coming off the loom, even though there is a weaver’s jinx that says,“If you’re too enthusiastic, expect a blunder”. He ran his loom with cold sweat on his brow, greasy fingers from maintaining the machinery. But by accumulating these incrementally small changes, like the tips of needles, the textile culture of this area grows.
If you drive along the former main road in this town, you find old-style houses. Imagine a beautiful plastered wall, a splendid beam in the entrance, and a wide dirt floor. Every time I saw even a small hut, I imagined there was a loom there as well. As a farmer’s side job, as his mother’s work at home, there were many houses that had one or two
looms.“In the old days, many houses across the street, on both sides, were weaving factories”. The number was said to have exceeded 10,000. Even now as everyday scenery, silk thread wrapped around wooden frames, line the side of the road while loops of silk yarn dry on balconies, like banners. This backdrop, which seemed curious to me at first, eventually became a substitute for the weather forecast, letting me know,“Oh, the good weather will continue”. It is essential for them to check the raincloud radar, so that their thread won’t get wet in a sudden downpour.
By the time I reached the beach, a white moon had emerged. I didn’t want to admit that summer was going, and I was in the sea until the last minute. It was getting dark, and I had to accept it. Time goes by. I sometimes feel we are being saved by change and sometimes that it leaves us behind. There were nights I was anxious over the progress of the project, yet excited by what was going on. I saw daily life being eroded by a virus. You have to swallow these feelings of
strangeness, little by little, and I can’t say it’s wrong. I heard sad rumours that hurt local people and watched as the truth sank to the bottom of the ocean. On the way back from the beach, a freak storm hit. Immense streaks of lightning silently gashed the sky, illuminating mountains that had been hidden, undercover, in the darkness.
Project Team Organizer
JR EAST MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS
Project Team Members
Tango Textile Industrial Association
METI Kansai Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry