The Gifted Blog

January 27, 2010

Inspired By: How to Wrap Five More Eggs, part 2

This Inspired By post is part of a mini-series on the things and people that inspire my gift wrapping. Inspiration can strike at any time!

Plate 46, How to Wrap Five More Eggs

As you may have read in my previous post, I found a book called How to Wrap Five More Eggs: Traditional Japanese Packaging at the library. You can browse some of the images here and preview the book itself here.

I appreciated the introduction to Hideyuki Oka’s book especially. Here are some continued thoughts on his observations. Oka contends there are two “lineages” of traditional Japanese packaging. Here he comments:
The second clearly recognizable lineage is what we may call handicraft. This involves more highly developed techniques and more refined aesthetic sensibilities. Departing from considerations of sheer utilitarianism, the packagers of this lineage were self-conscious craftsmen who endeavored to refine their methods and did so in a spirit of artistry. For them the act of packaging came to have important meaning in itself quite apart from the importance of the contents of the package. The package came to have a symbolic value quite distinct from its practical function. (pg 9-10)
I love this section because I see myself in it, and it makes me feel connected to my roots. I had noticed how highly packaged many products are when I visited Japan 5 years ago. The package of sweets from the corner store doesn't just contain sweets, but individually-wrapped sweets, lined neatly on a plastic tray. However, I never thought about where that tradition came from.

As an example of this 'handicraft lineage' of packaging, here is a ceramic peach tied with braided reeds (plate 24). Inside are candies. The peach shape evokes the fairy tale of Momotaro, in which an old couple finds a baby boy inside a peach. The tags are written with not only the name of the shop, but the name of the package's designer. How cool.

Plate 24, How to Wrap Five More Eggs

I think this passage aptly describes Japanese wrap culture, as well as how I feel. Gift wrapping has indeed become something meaningful to me apart from the gift inside. I feel like like an old-time Japanese craftsperson with a blog.

I especially love these sentences - "The motivation of these artisans was entirely personal. They could not resist the desire to perfect their art" (pg 10). I really resonate.

Alright, I have just one more post on this book to go! Look for it soon.

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