About the Boro ぼ ろ or Ranru らんる and the workshop

We ran our first in the new series of Boro making workshops on 5th December 2021 at the Sainsbury Institute, 64 The Close, with ten participants.

We first started running our workshops in Boro-inspired reparation processes back in 2018, at our first retail premises on Magdalen Street here in Norwich. ‘Boroboro’, in full, translates as old and tattered and is the most commonly used term when referring to the Japanese textiles practice of patching or repairing garments when using fragments or scraps of cloth.

The format for this workshop is quite straightforward. We begin with an introduction and overview of the whole subject of Boro by looking at a selection of Boro garments and cloth pieces from the KOBO A-B Boro collection. We also talk and provide a brief overview of katazome, shibori, and tsutsugaki which are all traditional Japanese dyeing techniques, as well as ikat/kasuri and sakiori weaving, together with a brief overview on natural indigo dyeing. We introduce all participants to the basics of sashiko stitching and of the patching/construction process for creating a Boro inspired piece.

The workshop itself is aimed at discovering the usage of mending stitches, and the application of repair and mending techniques using scraps of both modern and vintage Japanese fabric, together with the use of visible repair stitch techniques to enhance and strengthen textiles. This helps to promote new approaches to creating textile projects through the use of fabric scraps with traditional stitching techniques.

The workshop

Currently, our workshops have ten participants. We find that each person comes to the workshop with varying levels of skill and experience in sewing and textile arts and it is not actually necessary for anyone to have had any previous sewing skills. We have had several people with little to no experience come along resulting in them having a fulfilling, engaging and enjoyable day. Each of the workshops is focused on working on a particular item, and to date we have worked on the creation of a furoshiki cloth, azumabukuro bag and coaster amongst various other items.

We encourage exploration and a free-flowing approach, and the workshop day is broken into two halves. The morning session is very much exploratory and the afternoon involves application, techniques and bringing the artefact as close to a conclusion as possible within the workshop time. We have found that each participant finds themselves in the creation of the piece, in that their personality becomes a predominant factor within the construction and application of stitches, and the replication of patchworking reparation.

Along with the creative process and making of the workshop, we have observed and discovered a sense of mindful activity taking place. The making has an almost meditative quality to it, with each person carefully focused on crafting their piece.

We document all the work created during the workshop sessions and hope maybe to share these images in some form or other in the future.

About KOBO A-B

KOBO A-B is Hiroko & Nigel Aono-Billson. Hiroko has lived in the UK since the late 80’s when she came over to the UK from Japan to study Textiles at Central Saint Martins College of Art in London. Nigel’s background is as a graphic designer, who has worked in the UK, The Netherlands, USA and Japan.

KOBO A-B, began as an idea back in 2008 as a book proposal following our return to the UK from a period of living in Japan. We proposed to create a publication that would explore the objectification of traditional Japanese craft items, their making and their usage. As with so much of Japanese life, everything is considered, and we felt we wanted to share this with a Western/European audience. Sadly, the publication didn’t happen but in 2018, we opened our first store in Norwich. Our retail space is calm and peaceful, like a traditional Japanese tea ceremony house, a place that brought calm and peace to the warring samurai of the shogun era.

KOBO A-B is quite a personal thing; an extension of our home and the collection of things within it. With our shop, we want people to see and engage with the work of native craft makers of Japan, whether they are antique/vintage or contemporary and current. Each piece is carefully selected for the KOBO A-B shop. All products and items in the shop are ostensibly from Japan, except for a few pieces that are from makers within the UK. These pieces though have a direct connection with our KOBO A-B ethic.

“…It was a really rewarding workshop and I am planning to do more Boro embroidery both on my machine and by hand…”

Workshop attendee

e-Bulletin contents: