is an art of weaving by hand that is dedicated to free expression and self-development for everyone, regardless of physical or mental ability, age, or artistic aptitude. SAORI Weaving is pure improvisation from the heart, with no premeditated pattern in mind. Colors unfold, designs emerge, and beauty blooms directly from the genius of each unique individual working in harmony with loom, thread, and the spark of the moment. SAORI Weaving is a profound inner journey, yet we can enjoy it socially, working alongside others. We can also create clothing, bags, tapestries, and many useful items that can be appreciated by all. SAORI Weaving is fun, and anyone can do it!
Meaning of SAORI Weaving
Actually, “SAORI” is a trademark of Sakaiseikisangyou Co. in Osaka, Japan for the method and the teaching. This is the company that manufactures the SAORI loom and operates a weaving studio. Originally when the founder Misao Jo was asked to name her work for its originality, she created the word “SAORI” which comes from “Misao’s ori”. (“ori” means “weaving” in Japanese.) Later, SAORI weavers realized the “sa” could mean “differences from each other”. So, because of these spiritual roots, as experienced and expressed by founder Misao Jo, SAORI is more than just a technique. It is also:
- A philosophy that all people are artists: each of us has a latent intuitive power that SAORI can awaken
- An aesthetic that embraces the natural beauty of unintended “mistakes” and encourages exploring the unknown.
- A social movement towards bringing diverse people together to learn from one another. It is especially a movement to include within a larger community people who may be isolated or marginalized because of disability, age, income, occupation, ethnicity, or other reasons.
- An artistic yet practical path of meditation, therapy, rehabilitation, trauma recovery, stress reduction, identity-building, community-building, economic self-reliance, and holistic human development.
Here is a video we made for an Art and Health Conference in 2011.
In Japan in the late 1960s, Misao Jo, then in her mid 50s, decided she wanted to weave a sash (obi) for her kimono by hand. Her husband and sons built her a handloom, and her 84-year-old mother taught her how to weave!
However, Ms. Jo soon felt that her weaving in the conventional style was imitating the regularity and predictability of a machine. She said, “I have a brain and emotion. I’m a human being. I will weave an obi that is full of humanity.” She allowed herself to skip threads in an unforced, rhythmic way, introducing unusual stripes and fringes that resulted in original work of striking expressiveness. She kept experimenting, enjoying herself to a degree that she hadn’t believed possible, but wondering whether others would perceive her work as “really good.”
Finally, she brought her work to the owner of a fashionable kimono shop. To her surprise and delight, he bought all the work she showed him, sold it quickly, and asked for more. When she tried to fill his orders for a specific pattern she had made previously, however, she found that her joy in weaving was gone. Realizing that spontaneity was the secret of her success, she determined to teach this wonderful way to others. Today, at age 99, she is still weaving SAORI.
You will find out more details of the founder’s thoughts in the book “SAORI Self-Innovation Through Free Weaving”. This book is available at our store page.
1. Consider the differences between a machine and a human being
SAORI encourages people to do what only a human being can do that a machine cannot do. This is to be spontaneously original, unprogrammed, making up one’s own rules and even standards of beauty as one goes along. SAORI upholds this idea within a society where we often use machine language to describe people: we may call them more or less “functional”, or refer to them as “human resources” instead of human beings. SAORI, by contrast, values each person’s precious individuality as it expresses itself in each moment. No two weavings are alike. Further, we do not anxiously strive to avoid so-called “mistakes.” Loose or skipped threads, irregular fringes, and inserted bits of yarn or other material all add to the organic liveliness, the “human-ness”, of our creative art.
2. Be bold and adventurous
Nearly all of us live within limits that owe a great deal to what we imagine about ourselves, and to what others imagine about us. We believe that we are too busy, too conservative, too disabled, too un-artistic, too “dysfunctional”, too whatever-it-is to make time for spontaneous creativity. SAORI is a doorway to a larger and richer world than the one we often think we have to live in. SAORI insists that we all have the right and the power to make choices, and to uncover what nature has tucked inside us. When we do anything that lets our inner light shine, as far from our usual track as this may take us, we invite our relationship with the world to fall into place in ways we could not have expected. Sitting at the SAORI loom, our imagined limits are often revealed to us. We then have a safe opportunity to adventure beyond them.
3. Look out through eyes that shine
SAORI awakens us to our intuitive ability to perceive beauty. As we weave SAORI, we naturally cultivate this power, and we can also make a conscious effort to do so. “Eyes that shine” are on the lookout for beauty in unexpected, unstereotyped places: a dimple in a stranger’s face, the random arrangement of fallen leaves in the street, the rough edge of a brick, the surprising mix of colors in the weaving of the person sitting at the loom next to you. As we carry shining eyes with us everywhere, not only do they influence our art, but we ourselves slowly become gentler and more flexible as we see new beauty in ourselves, greeting the new beauty we see around us
4. Inspire one another, and everyone in the group
The SAORI way is to weave friendships as we weave fabric. Even people who have looms at home often weave in a group setting in order to learn from and help others. SAORI classes do not separate people due to age, length of SAORI experience, or disability. An experienced boy of 10 may coach a beginning woman of 60. New weavers may open new paths for veterans. A developmentally challenged adult may exchange tips with a college professor. Within groups, we encourage each other, share ideas, collaborate on projects, and draw inspiration from watching one another. Thus SAORI bridges differences between people, and celebrates both our variety and our common humanity.