Creation Project provides a blank canvas for creativity in Japan

Artists from across Japan have created striking designs on Furoshiki, a traditional wrapping cloth.

20 January 2020


In this time of heightened environmental awareness, it is surprising that Furoshiki have not been adopted the world over. These multi-use Japanese wrapping cloths are a traditional method of carrying objects and gifts, and in the case of the 2019 Creation Project, a blank canvas for creativity too.

The project invites Japanese artists to showcase their work in a specific traditional way each year. The pieces created are then displayed in an exhibition, where visitors are able to purchase the items they like. Previous formats have included ceramic plates, tube socks and knitwear, however the 2019 project is Furoshiki.

“Creation Project is a series of annual exhibitions launched in 1990 as a charity event that also conveys the enjoyment of art and design,” says Chisato Kuwama, assistant curator of Creation Gallery G8 and Guardian Garden gallery in Tokyo. “Each year work is created on a non-commercial basis by artists with links to the two galleries. They are then displayed and offered for sale, with the proceeds then donated to charity,” she says.


Creation Project 2019

Formerly just for Tokyo-based artists, the project expanded in 2017 to encompass people from all over Japan. These include everyone from experienced heads such as Masayoshi Nakajo, Takashi Akiyama and Richard Kehl, to younger emerging talents, like Ikki Kobayashi.

“We select items which are made by traditional Japanese craftsmanship each year,” explains Chisato. “This year, we focused on Kyoto’s traditional hand-dyeing technique and had a chance to work with S.Nishimura Co Ltd, who provide Furoshiki for artisans in Kyoto. Not only are Furoshiki part of traditional Japanese culture, but from an ecological and fashion perspective they are an item attracting attention today.” Due to the functionality of the Furoshiki, the design must be carefully thought out to ensure that it remains aesthetically pleasing, even when used to wrap an object - something that Chisato considers particularly important.

There were a number of entries this year that Chisato cites as having embraced this aspect of the brief. For instance, one by experienced designer, Yusuke Ono, whose pink-outlined rectangle “has been made to wrap A4-sized boxes." Another is Hiroki Taniguchi’s black and white patterned entry, which Chisato particularly admires because of how “you can see a variety of different patterns when wrapping.”

In much the same way, Michihiko Yanai’s design achieves this dual-purpose, albeit in a slightly more playful tone. Chisato describes how his consideration for the changing use of the cloth is clearly noticeable, due to the fact that “the character becomes three-dimensional when wrapped.”

It is pleasing to hear that entrants into The Creation Project embrace it each year, and not just because of the unique and fun nature of the brief: “Artists have said that because the funds from purchases go directly to charity they are glad to have the opportunity to make the social contribution of a design,” she says. Luckily for the wider public, following the exhibition, the Furoshiki remain available to buy online until the end of January, meaning it’s not too late to snap one up before preparations begin for next year’s brief.

And based on the results, Chisato seems confident that this combination of creativity and charity definitely seems to be working: “It serves to demonstrate, through the power of design, Japan’s traditional craftsmanship and industrial capabilities,” she says. “Under this format, in the last two years a total of ¥1.44 million (around £10,000) was donated to “Save the Children.”

GalleryCreation Project 2019: Hiroki Taniguchi

GalleryCreation Project 2019: Michihiko Yanai

GalleryCreation Project: Yusuke Ono

GalleryCreation project 2019


Creation Project 2019: Kae Higuchi

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Creation Project 2019

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About the Author

Charlie Filmer-Court

Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.

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