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A Wonderfully Rustic Papier-Mache Basket

Written on December 30, 2008

You can call this a boro basket of sorts: what a gorgeous, rustic and wonderful-looking thing.  This is a woven basket which is covered with a random smattering of pieces of paper, applied in many, many layers and all held together with glue.  It measures 10″, 25 cm high by 11″, 28 cm in diameter.

The brown patina of the basket could very well be the result of the application of kaki shibu or green persimmon tannin.  Kaki shibu was used on myriad household and everyday items in old Japan, including umbrellas.  Kaki shibu gives a very distinctive, rich brown color and it is the same stuff applied to sakabukuro or the very collectible sake straining bags.

The form of the basket is a kind of loosely rendered and squat cylinder.  The shape of the lip, however, is irregular and its backward curve suggests that the basket beneath the papier mache may have originally been a burden basket or a hanging storage basket.

In keeping with the spirit of recycling and reuse, the backdrop for the basket in these photos is a trio of panels of  hand woven zanshi cotton, zanshi being a kind of cloth which is woven from the leftovers of spools of yarn.  Of the many varieties of Japanese folk textiles, zanshi ranks near the top of my personal favorites and I will be offering these pieces on my website in the near future.

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  1. Comment by Chris Conrad:


    One of your readers sent this link to me. How exciting to see such traditional craft here! I had the pleasure of spending 2 years in Japan studying kakishibu. From the pictures, the basket looks to be an example of Ikkanbari, a traditional folk craft that developed as a way to extend the life of worn out baskets. The baskets are covered with washi, stuck down with paste, then coated with kakishibu. The color on this piece would indicate that it was indeed covered with kaksihibu. The tannin in kakishibu reacts with sunlight and oxygen causing the color to deepen and mature over time. Many ikkanbari pieces develop rich color with a lovely patina. Thank you for sharing this piece with us. Happy New Year, Regards, Chris

    January 1, 2009 @ 6:57 pm

  2. Comment by Anaka Narayanan:

    Oh yes, one of my favourites too I think. As I was scrolling down this post I thought to myself, “The basket is nice, but that fabric is awesome”. I am going to order a lot of woven checked fabric from a weavers’ cooperative in Andhra Pradesh for my summer collection, and their textile designs have the same flavour as these zanshi fabrics (except theirs isn’t from leftover yarn). I want to send them a link to your section on zanshi for inspiration.

    January 10, 2009 @ 3:43 am

  3. Comment by Randy:

    That’s one beautiful basket. Thanks for sharing!

    January 21, 2009 @ 10:20 am

  4. Pingback from Artist Spotlight…Lisa George and the Modern Art of Ikkanbari at PaperGlueBamboo « Tokyo Jinja:

    […] Ikkanbari (literally, idly pasting) is the ancient Japanese art of recycling worn out baskets by wrapping them in washi (handmade paper), coating them in nori (rice glue) and sealing them with kakishibu (persimmon juice) for a waterproof finish. Original old baskets are hard to come by, as they were not preserved as precious art objects, but here is an antique example from Sri Gallery. […]

    January 13, 2011 @ 5:02 pm