I was initially drawn to furoshiki after a search for eco-friendly gift wrap. I was impressed with how easily fabric could be folded to create beautiful gift wrap and then be repurposed by the recipient into a cute fabric bag or any other number of useful creations. When I learned that every year 4 million pounds of waste end up in landfills from paper gift wrap and grocery bags alone, I decided to start ORU and help bring furoshiki to the West.
Furoshiki can be traced back to the Edo period (possibly even earlier) in Japan. It was originally used as a means of bundling clothes together while a bather was using a public bathhouse. Eventually, it was used to carry groceries and other purchases, to wrap and decorate gifts, and to carry lunch (bento). Its use decreased significantly with the development of plastic bags, but thankfully, it's experiencing a resurgence in popularity due to its versatility and eco-friendly qualities.
We currently use a small furoshiki printing shop located in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan for all of our printing. It takes a few years for the craftsmen to learn the basics of printing, but decades to refine their skills. These artisans take their work so seriously that there are even competitions between shops to determine who is the most skilled!
Incredibly intricate designs are printed by hand. Even prints that require a tenth of a millimeter of accuracy can be printed this way (for reference this is the same thickness as standard computer paper) - it's so impressive!
After an artist designs a print for ORU, the print is sent to the printing shop for color matching and mold creation. If the print has four colors, four different molds are made.
In order to create a printing mold, a polyester screen is attached to the mold frame.
A photosensitive emulsion is painted on the screen and allowed to dry.
The screen is then placed on the printing table. The desired mold pattern is placed over the photo emulsion layer.
UV light then interacts with the photo emulsion layer. The portion of the photo emulsion exposed to UV light will be washed away. The portion blocked from light will harden to create the mold.
The screen is washed with water.
This is an example of one of our finished molds. A different mold is made for each color of the furoshiki.
The fabric is then stretched over the length of the printing table and fastened in place.
The printer then lays the mold over the fabric and carefully applies one color for each mold. There is an exacting precision required in this step to lay the color down as evenly as possible. Driers are set above the fabric to dry the die in between color applications.
Below are ORU fabrics in various stages of the printing process. The fabrics on the left still need an additional color application. The fabrics on the right are ready to be cut, sewn and packaged.
ORU fabrics drying at our printing shop.
We are thankful to work with such a skilled printing shop and look forward to sharing more images with you!