Yukara-Ori Textile

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In Japan, there are many traditional textiles that have been passed down in each region for several hundred years including Kyoto’s Nishijin-ori textile and Fukuoka’s Hakata-ori textile. In contrast, Yukara-ori textile, which was created by Hokkaido’s Asahikawa city born textile artist Aya Kiuchi, has only a history of about 50 years but still has an impressively unique quality.

Kiuchi was intrigued by arts and crafts – particularly textiles – while studying at university in Tokyo, and after returning to Hokkaido, started researching and trial manufacturing textiles at the Hokkaido Industrial Research Institute. Up until then, in Hokkaido where there were no particular traditional arts and crafts, Kiuchi created the “Yukara-ori”, whose motif depicts Hokkaido’s nature throughout the seasons. Yukara, which is originally an Ainu word (Ainu is the language used by the indigenous people of Hokkaido), translates to “epic poem”. Kiuchi used this name in hopes of having the craft passed on in Hokkaido for a long time. In 1962, Kiuchi established a factory to manufacture Yukara-ori on a full scale. Her passionate energy and her enduring efforts soon bore fruit, and in 1977 she received the highest award at the Japan Folk Crafts Public Exhibition. Her work continued to be widely acclaimed both in and out of the country, and in 1978 she was awarded first place at the Hungarian International Textile Biennale.

The themes of the pieces that are typically used in Yukara-ori often feature the beautiful nature of Hokkaido such as glaciers and white skunk cabbage. Yukara-ori is made by an entirely hand-done process that starts from dyeing locally-made wool, which is the main material, in over 200 types of colors, then making hand-spun threads from it, after that weaving it using a loom, and finally ends with the fabric-fulling process. By skillfully combining numerous colors, an oil painting like textile is made.

 Today, other than western and Japanese clothes, Yukara-ori is widely applied to various products ranging from fashion accessories such as bags and stoles to seat cushions and the back supports of chairs.

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