Made-by-hand: [Re]valuing traditional (Japanese) textile practices for contemporary design | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 6, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-4689
  • E-ISSN: 2040-4697



Textiles touch all our lives – from the cradle to the grave – and serve increasingly diverse purposes. Historically, and as one of the first industrialized commodities, the skill and knowledge required to construct fabrics to clothe and furnish has dominated cultures worldwide. Contemporary Japanese textile design draws on countless traditions of often ancient but sustained craft practices. These traditions both respond to and employ the natural condition of things, exercising heightened and honed sensibilities to material know-how. Discussed through the discipline of woven textiles and, in particular, ‘traditional’ Japanese production systems, this article seeks to identify the location and distribution of both practical and aesthetic expertise in textile making and its transferable value for contemporary practices. The article presents case studies of surviving vernacular ‘cottage’ industries, where highly organized systems of knowledge exchange, spanning agricultural fibre production to direct technical instruction in thread making, ensure effective engagement with and ‘management’ of very specific materiality. The notion of intangible cultural property will be discussed in the context of inherited knowledge and how traditional social hierarchies and knowledge systems have served to nurture and perpetuate the sharing of skills and understanding through generations of textile makers and making.


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