Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Japanese Boro Class

I took a Japanese Boro class last weekend from Jody Alexander, a local book, textile and installation artist.  I've been an admirer of her work for many years and have recently begun taking classes with her.

Jody is an excellent teacher.  I like her classes because she is thorough, brings tons of books and materials to share and paces her classes so that you don't feel rushed.

Just so I don't get it wrong, here is the Wikipedia definition of Boro.  There has been a lot of discussion lately about whether someone can make new Boro since the very nature of it is something that is old and had to be made that way because of a lack fabric available to make whole cloth garments. I don't think Jody or anyone in the class was trying to say they are making true Boro;  just honoring the tradition by creating new pieces that are in the spirit of Boro.

I won't go into a long description of Boro here, it is a very complicated subject and one I am not qualified to describe accurately.  If your interest is piqued here you will find lots of information about it on the internet.  You might start with a site I found here.

And, if your interest is piqued, Jody is giving the same class in September (which I am taking!) Here's the info on it.  Cabrillo College Extension Fall Textile Classes.  You won't be sorry you took it.  And act fast, there aren't very many places left.

This blog post is photo laden because it's hard to describe what we saw and made without showing you examples.

Here is a beautiful example of original Boro that either Jody or another student, Tracy, brought in for us to study.  These old pieces are in various states of perfection...and by that I mean that the older, more worn pieces seem to be more perfect to me!

Another beautiful old piece.

These are old Zokin which means dust cloth.

On the left is a dress Jody purchased on her trip to Japan two years ago.  It is newly constructed of old Boro pieces and fabrics.  Jody was granted a Rydell Visual Arts Fellowship and chose to use her funds to study Japanese textiles in Japan.  Her fellowship show Keep Modern Library was mesmerizing and so complete in it's interpretation of Boro.
On the right is a dress she created and wore to the opening. The colorful pieces are from old book covers.

Detail of the Japanese dress.

Here's Jody instructing about one of the several bags she taught.  The class was full of really interesting and talented people.

The first day of class we studied how to make the various components of Boro by making pages that were sewn into a fabric book.  These are books that Jody has made over the last few years.

An example of the (pardon my using a culinary term here) groaning table that Jody provides as a visual prompt for the class.  She is so generous with sharing materials.  New and old, they are so inspiring!

Another example...and I can't tell you if it's new or old.  I think it's new.  There was just so much to take in I'm glad I'm going to the class again!

The second day we made a bag using the techniques we learned the first day.  This is mine.  I used a pair of thrift store white levi's and bits of other fabrics I had on hand.  The round/square stamps are ones I just carved last week.  Carving stamps is a new one for me and I loved it.

I'm sorry this piece is so dark.  It is the start of a vest.  More on this in another post as I progress.  I have promised myself I will take photos along the way.

Here's the cover of my little book.

And one of the inside pages.

A sewing pal, Lynn, came down from Oakland to take the class and stayed with us.  Here is her bag. She chose to make it oversized and it's just gorgeous.   It's made from a beautiful hemp canvas she got at Stone Mountain and Daughter in Berkeley.

I regret that I don't have the name of the person who was making this bag.  I got around to see everyone's work and check in with them during the workshop but names always escape me.

This is going to be a stunner, wish I could see it finished!  Look at this collection of fabrics!

Another beautiful piece.  I love this fabric and detail.

One of my classmates, Tracy, had some gorgeous old Japanese fabrics.  And the handle is an old dog collar!

More of Tracy's work.

Again, I'm sorry I can't tell you the creator's name.

Now this one I know because it's my pal, Lisa, who made this from textiles she discharged, eco-dyed and stitched.

Another friend, Marilou made a bag using her eco-dyed fabrics, really great.

My table mate, Pam, had some great ideas.

Another of Pam's ideas.

So, you can see we all got a lot out of this class.  Can't wait for September!


  1. Yikes! it is all just beautiful. Now I'm going to have to see what I can find out about these techniques. It seems to depend a lot on the materials one has to work with, doesn't it? Thanks!

  2. It is all beautiful. I can't wait for your September either. And everything that happens in between.

  3. Thank you for sharing this wonderful eye candy! I love Japanese textiles.

  4. Very interesting - I am now intrigued by Boro and will look it up. Thank you:)

  5. Fascinating, Gayle! I've never heard of Boro, but it seems to be an art form built on reusing interesting bits of textiles. Interesting!

  6. Wow--that is SO INTERESTING! Thanks for sharing all the inspiring photos!

  7. I have yards & yards of new fabrics waiting to be sewn up but how boro calls to me!

  8. So beautiful! Thanks so much. My eyes are very happy.

  9. Very beautiful. What is the different between Kantha stitch/cloth and Boro? Thanks.

  10. That's a good question, Myrna. I've included the definitions I found online below. Kantha is the word used to describe cloth from India created using old saris. Japanese Boro cloth is made of old scraps of fabric. Both employ the running stitch.
    That is a nutshell version of the two types of fabric. There's so much more to each story. Hope this helps!

    "Kantha saris" are traditionally worn by women in Bengal. Kantha stitching is also used to make simple quilts, commonly known as Nakshi Kantha. Women in Bengal typically use old saris and cloth and layer them with kantha stitch to make a light blanket, throw or bedspread, especially for children.
    Boro are a class of Japanese textiles that have been mended or patched together. The term is derived from Japanese boroboro, meaning something tattered or repaired. As hemp was more widely available in Japan than cotton, they were often woven together for warmth.

    1. It seems both are a version of refashioning and scrapwork with a focus on hand stitching. Very interesting. Thanks for the definitions.

  11. You've inspired me to think about making some cushion covers in this style.

  12. That's a great idea. There is a strong tradition of using Boro cloth in home accessories.

  13. What a fabulous class! I envy you. I did a one hour boro class and it really made me want more. I have a book, but your photos are actually much more inspiring. Thank you so much.

  14. I'm delighted that you and so many others enjoyed learning about Boro. Jody tells me she has had many calls for classes. There seems to be a huge interest in this old practice. Thanks for writing!

  15. Thank you for this wonderful post! I look forward to seeing more of your boro work. Very inspiring.

  16. You WILL see more, I'm going to finish a vest I started in the second class.

  17. Lovely post. I am a big fan of boro having purchased a few pieces before the prices skyrocketed. The dilemma is whether to continue the task of repair or to remake into "new" things.

    1. Or, you can just enjoy it as is! I envy you having some original piecesThanks for your response.

  18. what an incredible display of talent & great imagination/creativity. I have been teaching myself indigo & eco dyeing, sashiko, chika chicka and boro stitch techniques. I certainly wish I had a series of classes to take here on the east coast. thank you so much for posting these photos to your blog. Holly

  19. You are very welcome. I'm getting to be a class junky, I think. They are so inspiring and keep me moving forward.

  20. Thanks for the inside look--the pics are fantastic! Wish I were a wee bit closer to Santa Cruz (Chicago).

    1. Thank you. And, Jody travels to give classes so if you got a group of 12 or so she might just come out!


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