Hirano Kikuo, a tsuzureori artisan
Studied in a high school while working
ーNice to meet you. First, could you tell me why you started?
Nice to meet you, too. My father was originally a weaver,so I took his place. I used to help his work. I started to work when I was fifteen.During the first four years, my father had taught me how to weave.
After that, I decided to go to a part-time high school, because I wanted to acquire the thinking ability. The four years at the school were so meaningful for me that I believe that what I currently do is the consequence of the experiences there.
The textile we weave at this workshop is called “tsumegakki-hontsuzure-ori.” We move a loom by using humans’ hands and feet only. Then, we weave textiles with “tsumegaki” method, using our own nails.
In tsumegaki method, we first take warps with a shuttle, gather the weft by using jagged nails like a saw, and weave it with a special comb called “suzidate” in order to make the strength equal.
ーI see. How did you gain experience when you went to school while working?
At that time, I weaved obi (decorative sash worn with a kimono) at home, and went to the part-time high school at the same time. I graduated the school in the end.
The design of obi we were weaving was already decided in advance. The entire design and the combination of colours were all set beforehand.Weavers make obi by following the order, and received wages.
However, since the combination of colours was already decided all the time, the work gradually became the succession of similar tasks, which bored me in the end.
There was no space to express my ideas, and I could not find any development in such a job.
Seek the Adventure in Tsuzureori Weaving
ーYou wanted to express yourself more in weaving.
A weaving store “Kawashima Orimono (Kawashima Weaving)” in Kyoto weaves not only obi, but also textiles for walls and drop curtains in theatres. At that time, they were looking for someone who weaves drop curtains by chance.
I had an offer from the workshop, so I decided to work there. I have worked at Kawashima Orimono for about 40 years. During the period, I learned plenty of weaving ways. I created my own weaving methods, too.
In tsuzureori weaving, we enlarge the original painting to the actual size of the textile and lay it under warps. Then we weave by following the painting.
My main work at Kawashima Orimono was also weaving threads by following the original painting and its colours.
By keeping working like this, we started to give weight to the efficiency. My boss asked me to weave effectively and economically.
Consequently, the balance of prime cost and deadline would be the problem. We had to make as good textiles as possible in the limited time.
I’ve kept this style for a long time, and I finally retired on reaching retirement age when I was 67 years old. Although I did tried many new things at Kawashima Orimono, I always wanted to take more risks, and try something more.
ーWhat did you do after you quit the company?
I got an offer to work at Nishijin Textile Centre. So I started to work at the centre and I met a very nice boss there.
He said, “You can weave various kinds of textiles. You can choose the material whatever you like.” As he said, I weaved many kinds of textiles.
He highly praised me for my works every time. Through this experience, I could realize that the technique I acquired at Kawashima Orimono is special. It was fun to work at Nishijin Textile Centre.
Then, he asked me to groom successors. So I took part in the training project. I have engaged in this project for about three year. But after Tohoku earthquake occurred, the economy depressed because of disaster. I once quit Nishijin Textile Centre at that moment.
However, my students asked me not to quit the job, so I kept teaching at another workshop, with two rooms of a six-tatami. Later, I moved to the current place since the previous workshop was too small for us.
“Treasure weavers more.”
ーFrom your long experience, what do you think is the problem of weaving industry?
Although there are plentiful weaving stores in Kyoto, only big stores can get orders from the government and the prefecture. We can say so especially when it comes to big orders, such as curtains for festivals. I guess it is the safer and easier choice for administration. However, there are many small workshops which own excellent skills, and I want them to order from these workshops, too.
ーThis problem relates on administration.
The position of artisans and their income is another problem. Even among big weaving stores, it is not common to hire their own artisans. Most of them hire weavers from several workshops.
Because of this system, it is difficult for many artisans to stabilize their job. Furthermore, weaving stores show the reluctance to raise artisans by themselves.
Most weaving stores try to increase the sales and adjust the amount of production with limited hands. Therefore, both income and position of artisans are relatively low, and their employment cannot be stable.
I want to make this situation better for artisans to gain appropriate salary in the near future.
“I want to see people surprised at tsuzureori weaving.”
ーWhere does your motivating power come from?
I really want to see people’s reaction when they first see tsuzureori. “What is this?” “How come he can do such work?” I want to see such reactions.
I especially want people who have knowledge or experience of weaving to be surprised.
I create many weaving methods, and people will be amused by watching it. Some people even want to learn it. These facts encourage me to keep working as a weaver.
After all, we weave textiles with our own sensitivity. People whose mind is poor cannot make good textiles.
The sensitivity itself moves customers, and people want to get the textile. So I want to make textiles with my own sensitivity.
ーI see. Finally, what would you like to do in the future?
I have focused on only making great textiles, because I believed that is what artisans should do. Artisans are people who can create ordered products quickly.
Nowadays, however, it is not enough to make products; we need to sell, and also create new things. We should raise future artisans who excel in every field, and it is challenging for us.
I personally think that the way to solve this problem is to teach how to weave textiles to the people who are already good at speaking foreign languages, using computers, and the customer servicing.
By doing so, we can raise multi-talented artisans in the end. I hope the textile industry will be livelier by raising such people.
In fact, we are already working on it. We cannot see the result yet, but we can save a lot of time to raise a qualified weaver. Maybe we can save seven years or so.
It is also important to wage property to them. Otherwise, we cannot keep our industry.
Our textile is not a hobby, of course. Therefore, I would like to tell people more about tsuzureori, not only by weaving obi but also by holding a study tour of our workshop and weaving classes.
We need to think about informing overseas, as well. We already made brochures and videos in English.
I have dedicated my entire life to tsuzureori, and my life will reach to the goal soon. I don’t have any worries except tsuzureri.
The only thing I have to do is to devote myself to tsuzureori weaving. However, I cannot keep my treasure without informing people about it.
Therefore, I would like to keep telling tsuzureori to people in the future.
【 Artisan’s Profile】
Mr. Hirano Kikuo
Mr. Hirano was born in Nishijin area, Kyoto City in 1939. He is designated as a Traditional Craftsman.He had learned weaving by his father and succeed the company as the Third president. After joining Kawashima Orimono Co., Ltd, he has worked for more than 40 years, and polished his technique at the company. After that, he took part in the cultivation of successors at Nishijin Textile Center and established “ Soushitsuzureen (奏絲綴苑),” an association to preserve the technique of tsuzure-ori werving. To convey the appeal of tsuzure-ori weaving, they open their workshop for public, and hold workshops there. Mr. Hirano has received Zuiho-tankosho, the National Order for experienced artisans.
【About the Workshop】
Including a large weaving machine which enables 4 to 8 people to weave at the same time, their workshop has 16 weaving machines. Beginners can enjoy weaving their own fabrics, too. Including Traditional Craftsmen, artisans at the workshop carefully teach participants how to weave one by one. Located near Kitano Tenmangu Shrine and , it is convenient for tourists as well.
We talked with a tsuzure-ori artisan in this interview.
He completely understands the greatness of that traditional weaving and keeps taking on new things.
He is searching the best way to keep the tradition not as a hobby but as a business.
Although it is difficult, he keeps planting new seeds in order to make new possibilities.
This expresses his love toward tsuzure-ori.
He was very lively especially when he was talking about weaving, and I still can’t forget his expression.
I believe he is the real “weaver.” We sincerely thank Mr. Hirano to cooperate in our interview.