Zen Weaving from Japan

Rumiko Torii

Rumiko Torii

In Zen vocabulary, SAORI is the combination of the words SAI, meaning everything has its own individual dignity, and ORI, meaning  weaving.

SAORI is a contemporary hand weaving method founded by Misao Jo (1913-, Japan) in 1969. She started weaving when she was 57 years old and created her own loom and style, free from the traditional concept and rules of weaving. She named her weaving style 'SAORI' in which anyone can express oneself freely regardless of age, gender, disability or intellectual aptitude. 

In SAORI, people can enjoy hand weaving as an art form, not only as a hand craft. Since SAORI has been introduced all over Japan, there are more than 50,000 SAORI weavers in the country.  SAORI has also been introduced the overseas in more than 45 countries.  SAORI is practiced across Japan, other countries in Asia, the Middle East, North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Australia and Africa at nearly one thousand institutions including special education schools, sheltered workshops, high schools, adult education centers, and rehabilitation centers for people with disabilities. 

Misao Jo was commended by the Japanese government twice for her public contribution made through SAORI Weaving Program. In 1990, she was honored by the Minister of Health and Welfare of Japan, and in 1992 again by the Prime Minister of Japan. 


© Yuka Sakaguchi

© Yuka Sakaguchi

Beauty without Intention

Hand weaving is one of the most popular hand crafts you can find almost anywhere in the world. However, SAORI is unique and totally different from other traditional styles of hand weaving.  In traditional hand weaving, weavers highly value the regularity and cleanness of the woven cloth: if there is an irregular pattern or thread, it is considered as a “mistake” or “flaw”.  In SAORI, on the other hand, we place more importance on free expression, because hand weaving is different from machine weaving.

SAORI's 4 Slogans
  1. Consider the differences between people and machines.
  2. Be bold and adventurous 
  3. Look out through eyes that shine
  4. Inspire one another, and everyone in the group

Of these 4 slogans, the most important one is the first one, Consider the differences between people and machines. In SAORI, we try not to imitate machine-made products, and we always try to do what only human beings can do. No two weavings are alike, and it is very natural that every single cloth freely woven by people with different personalities is beautiful in a different way. The irregular selvage and accidental skip of thread add the unprogrammed beauty to the SAORI cloths; and we admire this irregularity as "the beauty with lack of intentions" created by our natural creativity.  It is the traditional view point of Japanese who admire the “beauty with lack of intentions” in nature and zen style art works, that has developed the unique philosophy of SAORI. Misao calls SAORI weaving the creation of sensibility. The way people weave together is the best way to inspire each other by showing -- revealing -- their true inner creativity. If you become a SAORI weaver, your possibilities are limitless!


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