水引き(Mizuhiki): A charm of knots

‘Connecting people’, ‘Uniting people’….these are the phrase we often hear and use today. In the era of smart phone, people can be always hooked and reachable literally anywhere and anytime.

‘繋ぐ (connecting)’, ‘繋がる(being connected)’, these are the buzz word in Japan, certainly after March 11, 2011 when we had the massive earthquake and Tsunami disaster in the northern part of Japan. We experienced the modern technology was useless under the natural disaster beyond our imagination, but it gave us an opportunity to recognize the importance of “togetherness”, physically and at heart. It really gives us an extra power to get over, perhaps, one of the toughest moment for many people.

Knots has an association with the symbolism of love, friendship and affection. The knots motif can be found in legend, old stories and custom in many countries across Western and Eastern world.

In Japan, we have a custom to use ‘Mizuhiki (水引き)’ for a specific event such as birth, wedding ceremony, funeral service. Mizuhiki knot is associated with the Japanese word ‘musubu (結ぶ)’ meaning ‘connection’ or ‘tying’. As the name tells, attaching Mizuhiki conveys warmth, connection and togetherness.

mizuhiki

Photo from Kurume machi tabi official blog

Mizuhiki is made from twisted, traditional Japanese paper, which is made into a string hardened with starch.

水引2

How the tradition of mizuhiki started is rather funny. When packages arrived from Sui dynasty of China in 607 AD, the packages were tied up with red and white codes. Government officials who saw the codes misunderstood that the codes were meant to show respects and wishing ‘Bon voyage’ from Sui dynasty, while Sui dynasty tied them with codes just to distinguish goods for export from ones for themselves. It is interesting to see the naive misunderstanding of Japanese created such a ritual, which is still kept in Japan. Is it an irony of fate or a trick of fortune?

Knots are seen in the western world equally to symbolize connecting people and safe journey. ‘True love knot ‘ is the romantic one. There are many examples featuring sailors separated from their loved ones. True_Lover's_knot

It is said that true love knot was once common for sailors’ wedding rings. No wonder there are many jewelry using ‘love knot’ as a motif.

The one I still remember well is ‘Algerian Love Knot Necklace’ appeared in the movie ‘007 Casino Royale’.

Love knot necklace

Eva Green playing a role of Vesper Lynd worn throughout the movie and was subtly hinting her lost live in the past.

This piece of jewellery is created from twisteva green with love knot necklaceed gold and silver rings, multi layered chains, and featuring a winged heart clasp which is a signature of the designer, Sophie Harley.

Knots are also a popular motif in the art scene. Lynda Bengalis is known with her artworks with knots as a motif. The first time I noticed her knot shaped sculpture was at MoMA in NYC.  The motif of knots somehow reminded me Mizuhiki and perhaps because it was in 2011, my eyes were caught by the metallic knots and I stopped in front of the work for a while but without knowing the sculptor’s idea behind the work.

Lynda Benglis

Photo from 15 Badass Art World Heroines Over 70 Years Old

“My work is an expression of space. What is the experience of moving? Is it pictorial? Is it an object? Is it a feeling? It all comes from my body. I am the clay; I have been extruded, in a sense. How to tie it together? I don’t need to tie a knot. The forms of knots in my earlier work were expressive of this idea. I am the form.” – Lynda Benglis

There are two major regions for the production of Mizuhiki in Japan, one is in Kanazawa in Ishikawa prefecture and another is in Iida in Nagano prefecture. I leave some directory below.

Iida in Nagano prefecture:

Mizuhiki Crafts Gallery Skijima (http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocalMaps-g1021319-d1573976-c2-Mizuhiki_Crafts_Gallery_Sekijima-Area.html)

Iida Mizuhiki Association (http://www.026.co.jp/mizuhiki/englishindex.html)

Kanazawa in Ishikawa prefecture:

Tsuda Mizuhiki (http://mizuhiki.jp)

Chitose Mizuhiki (http://www.chitosemizuhiki.com)

Jiyukajin (http://www.jiyukajin.net)