Beautifully crafted UMAMI BAGS -- absolutely one of a kind
Ezura started making her bags about twenty years ago, as she was
totally fascinated with the quality the leather possessed. To the
question, what do you love about leather? Her reply is very simple,
I love leather because it doesnt fray! Unlike fabric, you dont
have to worry about clipping the loose strands, no matter whether
it is soft leather or tough leather. In feature 006, we will introduce
you Yoshimi Ezura, a leathercraft artist who has excellent ability
to handle leather, and also introduce you to her handsome bags.
Thats an Umami Bag!
Only once a year does Ezura
hold a solo exhibition of her leather works. The exhibit displays
the collection of her selected one of a kind bags. I asked why she
makes only one of each design? She explains, the reason is because
during the process of making one, new ideas pops in my mind for my
next design and I do not want to spend time repeating the process
of making the same bag again. She spends the entire year making creations
for her annual exhibition, and one can only buy her bags during this
exhibition. This is what I call a genuine, one of a kind. She explains,
In the past, I had contracted work outside, to see if I could produce
in quantity, but I gave up that idea. I felt I could only be fully
satisfied with my works, by actually doing the job myself from start
to finish. She smiles, and adds, I intend to continue making one
of a kind bags.
Even though they are such rare leather bags, when one sees someone
walking in the city holding her bag, it is immediately recognizable
-- Oh! Thats an Unami Bag!. It is not a Hermes, Gucci, or a Kelly
bag, but a distinctive Umami bag. Ezuras inspirations, her treatment
of the leather, her skills in handling the leather--- all these individual
component play an important role to create the final outcome. The
correct blend of form, the color and thickness of the leather, the
way it is finishedall of these produce the total design of each strikingly
attractive bag. You can say that you have to be a lover of handmade
craft to hold one of these bags, as it definitely has that warmth
of the artisans work, which makes one smile and proud to own it,
even if it may go unrecognized.
A place for inspiration
I visited her
workshop hoping to find something that linked to the secret behind
the attractiveness of Umami Bags. One room of her house in Hino
City, one hours train ride from Tokyo, was converted into her workshop.
On one side of the room was her working table, and on the other
side were two leather sewing machines. On a shelf close to the ceiling,
from wall to wall were rolls of leather stored away. Orderly sorted
out and hanging close to her working table were numerous tools.
Next to it hung systematically arranged patterns, made of cardboard.
The limited space was used to the fullest with everything stored
away in an orderly fashion. Surrounded by her tools of her craft,
this was the place where she could concentrate and be inspired,
in her very own castle.
touches on her bags are traditional craft techniques.
The secret behind
the attractiveness in her bag dawned on me, as I noticed her extraordinary
attention to details, taking craftsmanship to new levels. Her leather
bags are made with interesting techniques and skills, which can
seldom be found in other contemporary leather bags. I was thrilled
to find that some of the techniques were definitely traditional
craft techniques. They are techniques you might find in various
antique textile items and leather goods you might find at the museums.
Ezuras magnificent bags are made with multitude techniques of traditional
Japanese crafts, distinctively blending them beautifully as contemporary
you to some of her craft skills:
In olden times,
when the woven fabric was a luxury, for reinforcement, a cloth was
sewn with cotton thread, vertically, horizontally, and diagonally,
mainly on indigo dyed fabrics (Ai-zome). This is called Sashiko,
a technique born from womens wisdom wanting to prolong the
wear of the farmer's working clothes. Applying these stitches on
leather, the small stitches create small irregular surfaces, causing
interesting bumpy reflections, and tactile impressions.
The proper name
Sagara Stitches is one of the traditional embroidery techniques
for kimonos and obis, also often called French Knots. Knots are
made and gathered together forming lumps on the leather. This technique
was very popular in the Edo period to make pouches durable. These
nodes accentuate the leather, and add much to the optical impression
and give unique textures.
Inden is the name
of the technique that applies elaborate stenciled patterns with urushi
lacquer on deerskin. It is one of the oldest traditional skills in
Japan. In the past, these decorative deerskins were wrapped around
the hilt of the sword, or were used to decorate weapons and armors
of warlords. Today, the inden is mainly used as material to make handbags.
Ezura has mastered using such traditional skills on her bags with
a touch of contemporary look.
Here and there dangles
long strips of leather projecting from the bag surface. It seems as
if, suddenly the smooth surface of the leather becomes alive, with
its dangling arms swaying back and forth as you walk.
The surface of the
leather is cut, and another piece of leather is loosely applied and
sewn protruding from the holes. They look like sleeping caterpillar,
waiting to become butterflies --there is something organic looking
to the decorative patterns formed on the leather.
When she wants
a light bamboo base to make a square bottom, she will visit a bamboo
craftsman, and request him to weave a basket with specific measurements.
The basket is placed inside the bag as the base. One cannot see
the basket from the outside, but this is her innovative approaches
to her bags.
You can see how Ezuras bag making can be described with elaborate
vocabularies. The traditional materials and craft techniques are
just one of them. It is absolutely exquisite how leather transforms
into stylish creations with her modern sensibility and her magical
hands. She skillfully incorporates the traditional skills and interprets
them with her unique and amusing ideas in her bag making.
Only at handmadejapan.com
She only sells
them at her solo exhibition once a year and not sell at any stores.
But we have great news for leather craft lovers. She has accepted
selling her totes exclusively through handmadejapan.com. We have
selected 9 different types of tote bags, handy to use for any occasions.
She does not produce in quantity, therefore the item will be made
after each order is placed. Please allow a few to several months
for the orders to be made and delivered to you.
On a side note:
These totes were sold at the New York Takashimaya specialty store
that opened eight years ago on Fifth Avenue. The store is renowned
for selling one-of-a-kind hand crafted items, from different parts
of the world, Europe, Japan and the United States. The store continues
to be very popular as it offers exquisite interior furnishing and
fashion items for the tasteful, refined New Yorkers.
with the business world moving 24-hours a day, some people must carry
their personal computers everywhere they go. Perfectly suited for
todays multi-tasked women, these tote bags are very durable and lightweight,
excellent to hold your files and laptop computer in one sophisticated
The base of these totes is 10 cm wide and, and sturdy to withstand
some weight. They are just perfect to carry your tools, throw in your
flowers after a flower arrangement (Ikebana) classes or papers after
a calligraphy (Shodo) lessons.
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