‘Canvas’ is like mother. It is not like ‘Leather,’ nor ‘Cotton.’ Leather is more rugged and unapproachable, like father. Cotton is more fragile and is difficult to handle, like daughter. Canvas is made out of cotton (or sometimes hemp.) Cotton is weaved in tightly together to be span into a thread, and then twisted together to be a stronger thread. The thread is then plain-woven and become a fabric. Fluffy and feeble cotton becomes encompassing canvas. Canvas doesn’t get exhausted or discouraged. It can be worn and treated roughly, and it doesn’t care at all. Canvas is tolerant and generous. When it gets dirty, it says ‘Pfft, just wash me.’ When you make it carry heavy objects, it winks back at you. Above all, ecru, the color of canvas doesn’t intimidate anyone. Canvas is strong and beautiful.
Warp and Woof
There still remains a perfect picture of classical ‘factory’ with a saw tooth roof. The shape of its roof is designed to take in as much natural sunlight as possible and use the artificial light as little as possible. As symbolized by the roof, the factory is full of functional features and there is no artificial nonsense.
Spinning and intertwining threads to make a warp thread, and then weaving it with a woof thread. It is only a repetition of this simple process, but that's where the skilled artisans come into play. Setting the thread through what’s called ‘reed’ is Mr. Tsukamoto’s job. He’s been working here over 40 years. It is like passing the thread through the eyes of hundreds of needles. You cannot get the loom running unless this reed is ready. He is the only one who can do this skilled task. He says “You have no choice but to do your job, especially when you are the only one who can do it. It is not really up to me.” We were hesitant to talk to him while he was working on such a delicate task but he smiled at us while working on the reed unremittingly. “It’s not that difficult.” He says. “I’ve been doing this long enough.” Not everyone working there is experienced and veteran like him. Ms. Kato, who was working on looping the thread on a huge drum, just graduated from university and started working here this year. We asked her what brought her here, and she just shrugged her shoulders “I don’t know. Just because.” She only said very little but apparently she is highly motivated. We were told afterwards that she happened to watch a TV program that put together the feature story on the factory and soon after, she knocked on their door for an interview. Craftspeople with the age gap of 50 years working together in a harmony like the warp and woof threads.
Selvage and Heart
The loom is the heart of this factory.
There are 60 looms using the ‘shuttle’ that were manufactured in 1960’s. They are whirring so loud that you cannot hear the person next to you. Invisible fiber is dancing around in the air. The humidity of the room is set very high so that the threads don’t break. This factory is operating at its full capacity. However, there is something about it that makes it seem silent. Workers are constantly passing by between the looms. “They know what each loom’s likes and dislikes. They know which loom to use with certain thread thicknesses, they know when the thread is about to run out. They are communicating with the looms while walking past them. That pace of walking is very important.” They told us.
The canvas created with the shuttle looms has selvage. The unique characteristic that only the canvas weaved by the shuttle looms has. The canvas with selvage is not only functional but it can also be very creative. You can change the color of the thread to give it an interesting design. The shuttle looms can only weave textiles with 90cm in width, and they can only produce about 50m a day. They are nowhere as productive as advanced machines. However, the canvas weaved by the shuttle loom has a human-like character, which I find very fascinating.
Memories of Textile
When I held the canvas in my hands at the factory, it brought back memories of my school days. This is no wonder since the canvas is used for everything from a school bag to a gymnastic mat and many other things around school. Also, there are many things made out of canvas in our everyday life, like Judo uniform, mailbag or marquee. Perhaps almost every Japanese person has some kind of memories related to canvas. Considering the majority of domestically produced canvas is made here at this factory in Kurashiki, the canvas in my memories was most likely made in Kurashiki. There is what they call ‘the Three Whites’ here in Kojima district in Kurashiki. It represents the beauty of this area; vast white salt farm, beautiful white fish from Seto Inland Sea, and cotton white. Kojima is near the sea and a part of it is reclaimed, so it wasn’t suitable for farming rice. Instead, they have been culturing cotton. Kurashiki’s renowned local entrepreneur, Magosaburo Ohara who founded Ohara Museum of Art, made his financial fortune in textile industry. He preserved traditional art and white-walled townscape. The canvas used to be all about functionality and was totally divorced from decoration. Nowadays, canvas comes in wide variety of colors and design.
“I’d like to make everyone’s dining experience happy and fun through design.” Mr. Jun Horide of a creative team ‘holiday’ opened his head. holiday consists of Mr. Horide, art director, and Mrs. Misa Horide, creative chef. They specialize in design and cooking, and their design concept is to ‘make everyday happy.’ The main areas of their activities are; art & food direction, catering, planning & organizing events and many more.
Jun flew over to Paris to study design at the age of 18. At that time, his limited language skill helped him come up with non-verbal and easy-to-understand design ideas. “I always try to create something intuitive and that only has very little to say.” I keep constantly in mind the fact that good design is still good in black and white.” It is something his boss said to him when he was working for a design firm. “Japanese calligraphy is black and white. It’s very simple yet strong. When I’m thinking about logo designs, I always consider how it would look in black and white.” That’s where holiday’s creations’ simplicity and strength are originated from.
One of the main fields of work for holiday is catering. Jun comes up with the overall design, display and how to serve food, while Misa works on her delicious food. Jun says “We always talk about the design concept for each event. I have zero knowledge of cooking but through our work, I slowly started to realize that ‘food’ can also be designed, just like other products.” Misa was stumped about how to create customers’ dining experience more fun, when she was working for a restaurant. She adds “When I met Jun and realized that ‘design’ can be added to make her dream come true, I instantly knew that’s what I always wanted to do. We offer catering food and design space, and people communicate and engage with each other while enjoying our food. That’s exactly how we wanted it to be.” At their catering events, they display iPad showing their website. Instead of just placing it on the table, Jun created a frying pan shaped iPad cover made out of wood. “I think handmade wooden frying pan is very ‘holiday-like.’ I love it when people open its lid and go wow when they see iPad in it.”
They live and work in Hayama, Kanagawa. Their home/office is also one of holiday’s creations. The design concept was ‘class.’ They wanted it to be like a classroom where the whole family can have fun like classmates. They also wanted it to be classy. Jun explains “We had never built a house before so it was quite challenging to start with. However, as soon as we came up with this concept and started talking with our architect, I was bursting with ideas. We used cork flooring just like kindergarten.” Their kids are running around the house crying and laughing nonstop. “We are not living in a theme park but we try to make it fun as much as possible.”
holiday is now much in demand and gets offers from many different fields. “We try to create anything they ask for. When you think of it, you could say we are artists. I am interested in so many things, and different job offers bring us many opportunities to discover something new every time, and I love that. Because we are specialized in food and design, it gives us the unique characteristics and we now get to work on designing lifestyle as well.”
they are currently working on a caf? in kamakura called ‘house.’ misa worked on the menu and jun organizes various workshops. at one of the workshops, participants did not only make a butter spreader, but also toasted their own bread and used their creation at the end. jun says “your dining experience is definitely more fun and the food tastes much more delicious when you are a part of it. we want everyone to feel that through our workshop. we also want them to experience how close you can get with your friends and family by sitting around the dining table together.” this activity symbolizes holiday’s design concept of ‘happy communication through dining.’ they are now thinking of creating fun and unique kamakura souvenir and sell it at house. their activities are spreading and evolving around food and design. i am sure we will see more of holiday’s creations around us near future.
For our KOE From Kurashiki project, we asked holiday to come up with some merchandise using Kurashiki canvas. Jun explains ‘Canvas is structured and clean but we wanted it to be more relaxed and chilled this time. We want it to be used and broken in. The speech balloon design comes from the idea that we want everyone to enjoy their conversation using this table cloth.’ Their design concept is to ‘create a dining table anywhere.’ As soon as you spread this table cloth, that place becomes your dining table. Please use this to enjoy your favorite meal with loved ones at your ideal place. Hope our products make your everyday life happier and a little more fun.
Living true to the voice of your heart is very important, yet very difficult.That’s why those who are true to their own voice are often charming.What they create is also very attractive for many of us.
KOE wishes to reach out to each and every one of your voice and deliver it to the world.KOE was created upon such prayer.
We aim to make everyone happy, those who make clothes and those who wear them.We started off with visiting all the factories to check their work environment.Only the ones that meet our criteria manufacture our products.
The first store is in Okayama.This is where Cross Company, the owner of KOE, was founded.
In the process of building up KOE as a brand, We started to think of conserving traditional art and technique of making clothes, with a strong determination.We want to hear from the creators and we want to spread their voice all around.This was the start of our activity, KOE From, It went beyond the border of clothing brand.There are creators in different parts of the world who put their sincere attitude towards creating quality clothes.
They give their full attention to their work hoping what they create will be used for a long time.
We then introduced the voice of up and coming creators who enjoy taking on a challenge with new approaches.We wish to create something to make your everyday life a little more exciting.We want to send out your invaluable and irreplaceable voice to people out there.
KOE From will travel around the world to search for people who listen to their inner voice and follow their own way of creating something special.
We would love you to enjoy the journey with us where the brand new story will be created from crossing their voice.Our first shot is KOE From KURASHIKI.It is a collaborative work of Kurashiki Canvas from Okayama and an creative team called holiday based in Zushi.
The first KOE store in the wholesale district in Okayama City opened last autumn.You are welcomed by a big symbolic tree.You will see the tree covered with cotton flowers at this time of year.Okayama has been thriving on high quality canvas production made out of cotton, for a long period of time.Kurashiki Canvas still carries on the torch to produce canvas on integrated manufacturing system by seasoned artisans’ eyes and hands.Among those manufacturing phases, there is a technique where only one craftsman could undertake the job.Unfortunately the tradition is dying that no one else knows how to do it anymore.Canvas created by such artisans who devote a great deal of time and care becomes school bags to be used for a long time, craftsperson’s tool bags, mother’s aprons, and be used and loved in your life.
With such canvas in our hands, we requested ‘holiday’ to create “something that brings the family closer and get everyone’s conversation flowing.” (KOE also means every family member’s voice.That’s why we offer products ranging from kids to mum & dad.) It was something only ‘holiday’ could do, as they continue to take a fresh approach to create fun dining time for everyone through their design proposals.
That is the story behind our Kurashiki Canvas table cloth.You can use it at home or out in the garden, or use it as a picnic blanket in the park.It’s tough and can be washed as much as you want.The more you wash it, the more texture it gets added.As soon as you spread it, that becomes the dining table where everyone gathers.Listening to such beautiful ideas and stories behind creating the table cloth made us happy.We could picture people laughing and dining around the table cloth in our minds.How did the table cloth turn out?
You can come to the store and touch it and feel it for yourself.
Also, we are aiming to create a space in many places across Japan to attract local people to gather and mingle.We will constantly hold events.We are looking forward to hear your voice.KOE From stock is limited but you can also order it online at wear.koe.com.
We are living in the times where the world is so small and we can disseminate local beauty to the world.And we can value everyone’s voice.What a beautiful world that is.
414-2 Sohara, Kurashiki, Okayama
KOE From KURASHIKI
Editor : Soken Ito
“A Tale of Kurashiki and Canvas"
Writer : Yoshiko Asano, Maiko Hayashi(nico edit)
Photographer : Yoshikazu Shiraki
Writer : Miki Miyahara
Photographer : Tomo Ishiwatari
Writer : Miwako Hosokawa
Designer : Ryoji Tanaka(Semitransparent Design)
Publishing : KOE PRESSROOM
1-4-7 Nakasendo, Kita, Okayama, Okayama
1506-3 Tahishimomachi, Takamatsu, Kagawa
2-2-13 Meikenishi, Chuo, Niigata, Niigata