Jarrett Reynolds, designer, on his Japanese Boro rug.
GB Why did you choose your rug?
JR I moved to Japan seven months ago and I went to a place called Amuse Museum which is owned by a guy who collects Boro antique rugs, kimonos and clothing. I didn’t intend to go into his place but my wife dragged me in – and it was amazing. The whole museum focuses on Boro, which is the Japanese word for rags – only the word has now taken on the meaning of these hand-quilted old indigo garments. I started to research them and became obsessed with Boro. So I’ve been on a hunt all over Tokyo trying to find more. They’re becoming harder to find. These used to be peasant rags that nobody valued. But each piece is unique. The intention behind making these wasn’t beauty. They were made out of necessity to protect people from the elements. They just came out this way. When the guy who found this for me pulled out this particular rug, it was in a flea market called Boroichi that happens twice a year and has been going for 430 years. My jaw dropped. My wife said, “It stinks!” It does stink, it’s stained, I think it was used to put out a fire or something. I wish I knew its story.
GB How old is it?
JR The fabric is between 80 and 100 years old. All the fabric runs vertically, the way it did on the loom. If you look closely you can see where it used to be part of a kimono or a piece of clothing before it was a floor covering. It’s made from generations of one family’s fabric. It’s beautiful to me because there is no other one like this.
GB You’re a designer for Nike, so you work with really high tech fabrics on garments that are mass-produced. Is this a reaction to that?
JR Yes one hundred percent. You could never mass-produce this item however much money or technology you had. I’m equally attracted to the future and the past. I think it’s because I’m attracted to extremes.
GB So is it the craftsmanship in this you admire more than the fact that it’s so worn and used?
JR It’s more like the perfect storm. There’s the beauty of the Indigo process but then there’s the beauty of the way it got ripped and torn and was then mended.
GB Do you think that there are different ideals of beauty in Japan? I’m wondering if you chose this because those ideals are somehow infectious when you’ve been there for a while?
JR I don’t think I can make a generalisation between Japanese and Americans. It’s more on a case-by-case basis. Maybe I’m attracted to this because it’s an outsider’s view. I do find mundane things here beautiful because they’re new to me. I’ll walk down the street and notice trashcans or subway handrails. I think the Japanese don’t notice these things so much because they see it every day. I can say one thing about this rug though, I don’t think I will ever become numb to its beauty.
GB What makes something worthy of the word Beauty to you?
JR Real beauty is something that lives in your memory and doesn’t go away. I can remember the first moment I saw my wife like it was ten minutes ago – what she was wearing, her smell, the way she was standing. Everything. And I can remember with the same amount of passion and detail the experience of walking up the stairs of this museum and seeing a Boro rug hanging on the wall for the first time.