This past weekend Heath Ceramics in San Francisco had a lovely exhibit; Akio Nukaga and friends which included several events. One of the friends events I saw on the calendar was a Japanese gift wrapping demo. So you know I had to be there!
As part of the festivities the Japanese textile company Kamawanu brought their beautiful Tenugui cloths. What is Tenugui? As it says on their promotional materials:
"Tenugui, a piece of dyed cotton cloth, has always been an essential tool for the Japanese. Not only was it used as a wiping tool such as a towel or handkerchief, it was also used as a bandage and a headwear in the old days. On the other hand, since it was possible to dye various graphic designs on the Tenugui, it also came to be used in the place of a greeting card or a business card."
Gift wrapping is a newer use that Kamawanu is promoting for the Tenugui. You may have seen Japanese gift wrapping with cloth before. The other variety is Furoshiki which uses a square cloth for gift wrapping but it is an entirely different tradition. Wrapping with Tenugui employs similar concepts but is different because the cloth is a long rectangular shape.
Megumi Inouye was the demonstrator and came up with many ways to show us how to wrap with the Tenegui. I'll admit with all my wrapping love I have been a little hesitant to dive into wrapping with cloth. Megumi made it look approachable. Watching her manipulate the cloth you can easily see the benefits of wrapping with Tenegui.
With just a few concepts in mind you can wrap many things.
— Laying your object at an angle to the cloth allows you to cover your object completely.
— Alternatively if you have a larger object don't stress about covering it completely. Partially wrapping it with the cloth will still make it special.
— Round objects can be rolled at an angle in the cloth.
— And while you're at it use that same idea with boxes. Throw out the western idea of positioning objects at 90 degree angles.
— Twist the cloth to wrap around a wine bottle neck. Or twist the cloth to hold an object inside.
— Knot the cloth. Optionally tuck the exposed ends of your cloth into the knot for a different look.
— Work with the shape of your object not against it.
— It's ok to get an assist from a simple modern tool like the rubber band! But for this lets definitely say no to tape.
Megumi and I actually have an interesting connection even though we've just met. In different years we've both participated in the Scotch most gifted wrapper contest. Megumi was runner up the year she participated. So this was a treat to connect with her and chat about wrap.
One of the important things she emphasized is that the Tenegui can elevate simple items for gift giving. This technique doesn't need to be reserved for wrapping only precious ceramics. That's one of the principals I think is so important about gift wrapping whichever kind you do. The act of taking the time to wrap something imposes a significant to the act of gifting however big or small either physically or monetarily the item is.
During Q&A someone asked how Magumi would wrap a plant. She took the challenge and quickly came up with the above idea. I think for a moment she felt like she was back in the wrapping contest.
Some other facts about Tenegui.
Tenegui comes in many patterns which are often chosen by the gift giver to fit the interests of the receiver. The patterns are made by creating paper templates that the dye is pushed through. The Tenegui cloth is cut from a continuous roll so each individual cloth has two cut edges and two salvage edges. (I'm not sure if there is a different terminology for salvage when it comes to this particular cloth). To dye the cloth it is starched. Brand new Tenegui cloths have a crisp feel to them. As they're used and washed they become soft.
You can read about the history of Tenegui on Kamawanu's website.
I know that there isn't a full demo here but I encourage you to get any bit of fabric that is not very thick and just play around with melding it to the form of objects. The wonderful thing about fabric is you can re-wrap as many times as needed without damaging your material. That's much harder to do with crisp paper. Megumi has a couple Furoshiki classes up on Creativebug that could give you a start.
If you're in San Francisco head over to the Heath Ceramics tile factory to snap up some of the remaining Tenegui still in the store. I'm not sure if it will be a regular item that they'll retail but I hope so.
If you have any additional info to share about wrapping with Tenegui or cloth please share in the comments!
In case it's not obvious all wrappings are done by Megumi Inouye.