These artisans carve out an essential tool at the end of their fingertips.

Whether they’re shaving wood like cheese or painting intricate freehand patterns with ease, there’s something inherently fascinating about watching experienced craftspeople at work.

This week it’s time to turn our attention to yet another captivating traditional craft, and this one comes to us from Shiga Prefecture, where the artisans involved all have one common physical feature: little jagged edges carved into their fingernails.  

The craft these artisans are involved in is called tsumekaki hon tsuzure ori, which literally translates to “nail-scratching genuine-tapestry weave“. As the name suggests, this technique involves the use of nails in order to create the weave, and it’s the oldest type of Nishijin Ori, a traditional textile produced in the Nishijin district of Kyoto.

Made in Japan for over 1,000 years, one company in Shiga Prefecture is working hard to promote the ancient craft and keep it relevant for today by using it to create products suited to modern lifestyles. Called Kiyohara Orimono, the company has also produced this video to give us a behind-the-scenes look at the weaving process, and the reason why those jagged little nails come in handy.

The video above shows how the filed nail is used as a tool for weaving, scratching the threads together with its serrated edge, as it’s been done for centuries.

The result of this painstaking process is a fabric with elaborate patterns that look as if they’ve been painted on with a brush.

Surprisingly, not a lot of people in Japan were aware that this technique existed, and when Kiyohara’s Senior Managing Director Seiji Kiyohara brought it to everyone’s attention with this tweet on Twitter, it quickly went viral.

And to answer everyone’s question about how the nails are filed into such precise little triangular tips, this is how it’s done.

Kiyohara, who says his goal is to ensure that traditional Japanese weaving techniques never die, is now using age-old fabric-making methods to make stylish products for everyday use under the Sufuto brand.

Though you can’t really put a price on centuries of tradition, Sufuto’s prices start at 3,080 yen (US$29.11) for wind chimes featuring hand-woven fabric, which can be purchased online here.

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tone l パッと目を引く美しい絹糸と、南部鉄器の風鈴『絹鳴り』。柔らかな音色はご近所迷惑にもなりにくい、程よい音量です。 品切れののお色も補充いたしました。ご購入はオンラインストアからどうぞ。▶︎¥3,080(税込) ・ This is a real Japanese hand-woven fabric. Throughout this long history, we have created a weaving technique called tsumegaki tsuzure—in which weaving artisans file their nails to a jagged shape for picking up threads—based on their ambition and spirit of taking on challenges, namely the desire to create good products at a faster speed and of better quality.Over thousands of years, the craftsmanship of these weaving artisans has been quietly passed down until today. #つづれ織り #綴織 #爪掻き本綴れ #清原織物 #sufuto #緞帳 #西陣織 #手仕事 #伝統工芸 #織物 #職人技 #Japan #craft #traditional #handmade #textile #weaving #design #fashion #artisan #art #weavingtapestry #weavingtechnique #details #風鈴

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It’s nice to see ancient traditions throughout Japan being adapted for today in all sorts of interesting ways, bringing us unique products like lattice wood bicycles and 100-year cosmetics brushes. Here’s hoping these traditions survive well into the future, because carrying our watermelons just wouldn’t be the same without them.

Source, images: YouTube/株式会社清原織物
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