Why I started whoopie roux -Morocco, handwork and I-
I visited Morocco in the last year at the university, and traveled around the country for three weeks with my backpack.
It’s been quite a while ago, but now I feel like looking back the visit and sorting out my feelings both I had there and now I’m having... because I feel I’ve been influenced so much by what I experienced there and it leaded to myself of today... especially to the reason why：
・ I’m working on handwork
・ I’m interested in upcycling
・ I started to have vintage items at my shop
I know I haven’t studied about this world enough yet, so please pardon my ignorance you’ll find in my writing.
I’ve been to 24 countries so far.
It is strange how vividly I remember the scenes in Morocco, but anyway it was the most impressive country for me.
During those 3 weeks, I traveled with people from UK, Canada, Australia and Argentina.
Their occupations varied widely such as a doctor, a university professor, a staff of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a genetic researcher.
I was just a collage student, so traveling with them and exchanging opinions about what we saw on our eyes were very inspiring to me.
We dropped by the studio, and artisans were working there.
There were lots of classic tools, but no machine.
Products were made by skilled craftsmen in high quality, one by one, to meet demand.
I’ve liked handwork since I was little, so it was really interesting to me and I could watch it for hours.
People seemed to pay “respects” and “price” to their skilled handwork.
They would need a long time to be a full-fledged. I felt they were proud of their profession from their serious look, though they shouldn’t have been so rich.
“Those who pursue profits may bring mass-produced products here soon” I thought.
In that way people get richer and richer, but those local artisans would not be the ones who enjoy it.
“What is being rich? ”
I bought a small beautiful pottery and left there.
In the town, Moroccan people looked happy and they were so kind (not on business scene as well).
Japan has been said to be a rich country, but Japanese don’t look much happy.
I wondered what happiness is all about.
When I left for Morocco I believed visiting such country would surely become a precious experience to me, but during the trip I felt a kind of guilty because what I did then... paid money, flew to a country in Northern Africa and enjoyed a foreign culture... could be nothing but egoism.
We went south to the Sahara Desert, and found some people and simple tents on the way.
All we could see around them was just desert, and they seemed to have no infrastructure.
Should poor countries stay being under poor situations while rich countries are competing day by day to get richer and richer? Such system would never change as long as rich countries just enjoy and are satisfied with what they have.
However... What can I do for it?
I thought I would keep spending my life peacefully after going back to Japan... and felt sick.
Voluntary Charity “Sadaqah”
I saw a rich-looking man walked up to another guy who were begging for money on the street, and gave him changes.
I was surprised because I haven’t seen such scenes before in other countries.
One of my friends taught me that it was a kind of charity of Islamic culture called “sadaqah”, sharing wealth between people in different situations.
Only major stores such as supermarkets had price tags on marchandise, so basically I had to communicate with local people and bargain the price every time I shopped.
I was told: “ They would offer visitors the price about 10 times higher than the local price, so you need to enjoy bargaining down the initial price to less than half.”
It was interesting at first, but I couldn’t find out how much was the reasonable price I should pay.
Even if I paid $1 for a 10-cent bread, it was not that big of a deal.
However, they might be able to get enough food for family tonight or purchase shoes for barefoot children, with that 90 cents I paid in addition.
This would be a kind of attitude all visitors should have, but some said that their life would never be improved as long as they rely on this manner.
“How should I behave then?” My heart did hurt.
A Power of Colors
Buildings and streets were painted in bright unique colors.
At first I wondered if it was graffiti because I was not familiar with that kind of paintings, but I was soon fascinated by those beautiful coloring.
Colors gave a different impression over streets, and it was even like magic.
I felt that colors had a power to nourish our minds, and people there would use it practically.
My Life in U.S.
I moved temporarily to the U.S.
There is no room for doubt to call it to be a great, enormous country. People were fully enjoying mass-production and mass-consumption and I couldn’t help recalling my visit in Morocco on the other hand, thinking that there should also be many other developing countries over that enormous wealth.
Lots of the riches and lots of poor people existed under capitalism.
I wondered about the happiness again, and made my mind to choose the option that I can feel happy though it may be different from others.
In the course of mass-production/consumption/disposal, lots of old items, some were made by American artisans and others were imported from Europe or other areas, were handed down person to person, and fortunately I could meet those people who found value in good old things and have kept them with care.
I acquired items from those people when opportunity appeared. Sometimes I visited their homes. Some people told me the memory about the item, and others recommended some because they thought they would go well with my taste.
Garbage didn’t need to be separated strictly there (for me grown up in Japan) so things have been disposed easily, but those items have survived.
Some products were made with care and love, but there would also be many items that were produced much more than needed.
Garbage trucks are driving loaded them all together, and those stuffs can’t be vanished when arriving at the destination.
I knew there is not the one single solution for this kind of problem, so I started to look for it by searching online and reading related books.
Then I began to think that I might be able to do something for things to be disposed, even if I had nothing to do for overproduction.
How I Started Handworking
I also began to visit a vintage warehouse, which were open only for wholesale.
That place seemed to take over items from other closeout warehouses, so there were much more vintage stuffs – actually treasures for me - than I imagined.
I found lots of beautiful vintage glass cabochons there.
They had a flat back and didn’t have a hole, so I couldn’t find how I use them. However, I started to purchase those pieces when I did feel something click with.
As I searched about vintage stuffs, I got to know that so-called “costume jewelry” was born decades ago and those glass cabochons seemed to be made by craftsmen in the peak period.
“It would be great if I could make something by using them...” I thought.
Then I draw my first design draft, and sent it to some jewelry studios by attaching to emails. In this way I started to work on costume jewelry.
On the other hand I had a set of hand-weaving loom, but I didn’t know how to set a warp and even had no yarns yet.
I found a yarn shop, about 1 hour driving from home, and asked a shop owner who knew well about hand-weaving to teach me how should I start it. She readily complied with my request and I visited her the next week with my own loom.
I also found a yarn factory and it had a clearance sale that was open to retail dealers too. I was shocked to see a huge amount of unsold stock, but so excited at the same time as I went further in a gloomy stockroom thinking about how I could utilize them .
It’s hard for me to put everything I think into words, but through those experiences I came to have a strong wish to do something that would make me and those who concerned with me happy, and that entire work should bring happiness to someone else (or decrease undesirable things, at least).
This is my philosophy which supports every activity and work of mine.
Thank you for your time for reading through this long, petty writing with no conclusion. I wanted to communicate a part of my background and activities with you, and I hope I could successfully do so.
If you are interested in or feel sympathized, please feel free to contact me. Of course, it’s great if you look out for my work as well.
I’m looking forward to seeing you someday, somewhere in this world.