…Tsukumogami

Sometimes things stumble across your path when you least expect them to.  A few years ago I was working on some other other projects and was reading about animated objects – think Beauty and the Beast and the residents of the castle – and got sidetracked down a Google hole.  That foray ended up (don’t ask) reading about Japanese animism.  There are a couple of ideas that got me curious.

One of these ideas is tsukumogami.

Properly speaking, tsukumogami are inanimate objects (specifically tools, but this is up for debate according to Wikipedia) that have been given sentience and spirit based on their age.  It is unlike the example I gave earlier because these have sentience in their own right as things – they aren’t just charmed things and they aren’t humans being punished for something.  Their existence seems to be a reward in a way.

It is where I got the inspiration for the little guys that mess around and help out or cause havoc (depending on their personalities) at the workroom – the sewing fairies.  In my imagination they are tsukumogami that have come to life from an old pincushion and are freed from that tiresome burden to explore the world around them in a way they couldn’t when they were on pincushion duty.

Sewing classes in Chicago: Tchad: Sewing studio: Workroom: Sewing fairies: tsukomogami
That’s Radbot helping slipstitch a pocket while Adaku looks on…

But tsukumogami is a useful idea to keep in mind as you create things – I think it is a good idea to think about the things you create as potentially having some life to them.  If you know that this dress or that jacket may potentially be given its own sense of spirit, you may be more thoughtful or careful about how you construct it.  You may be more inclined to think about your own process in the creation of the work and then project that into the piece.  Thinking this way gives you some clarity and will show up in your sewing.

This thoughtfulness goes for your tools as well.  It isn’t that you will never cut paper with your fabric scissors – hey it happens – but rather that you will treat your tools as if they had a kind of spiritual function.  You can think of this as respecting your craft like I wrote about before or you can have a little fun thinking about the potential of them becoming tsukumogami.  In either case, you are going to treat them better.

Now, I’m not telling you here that I actually believe the sewing fairies or tsukumogami exist as such.

I’m telling you that allowing my imagination to play around with the idea that they could exist makes me a more thoughtful designer, creator, maker, and ultimately makes me a better person. Because it really does.  If I am treating my tools, supplies, and projects with respect and thoughtfulness then that same respect and thoughtfulness will filter out and into all the other areas of my life.

You and I are both on a journey to bring new things into the world that are some combination of interesting, useful, stylish, thoughtful, unique, necessary, and any other number of adjectives.  That journey is almost always interesting and worthwhile. It is only fitting that those things we make as we carry on this very special tradition of making things would get their own spirit.

Its a nice thought that I smile at anyway.

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