These Crafts Will Renew Your Faith In Human Ingenuity

by Rachel Baker on August 16, 2014

Typically, on this site, we put up tutorials and links to some pretty talented crafters. Today, though, we are putting up a different type of article.

One of the things I love about upcycling is that I feel like I’m doing my part to help the environment by not filling up the landfills, but I always start from something I have available – some fabric or tool or paint or furniture. When I saw this article I knew I had to post it here. The artists being celebrated in the article made amazing art out of nothing at all.

Below is a montage of crafts that were made by Japanese-American prisoners during a particularly appalling time in our nation’s history (unfortunately, there were many) – the time we set up internment camps in retaliation for the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The crafts were made with absolutely nothing, and this is amazing; and worth sharing. More importantly, its a time worth remembering and one in which we hardly ever talk about. If you happen to be anywhere near the Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington, you should stop in to see an amazing art show titled “The Art of Gaman”.

Half of the 120,000 prisoners were children. It was the start of the War Years, the turning from 1941 to 1942. Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor and President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered 90 percent of America’s ethnic Japanese from their homes in retaliation. For four years, they lived in bleak camps edged in barbed wire, deep inside deserts and swamps. Internees were allowed only what they could carry, including bedding and eating utensils. Upon arrival there were no chairs to sit on, no tables to eat at, no tools to build with or scissors with which to cut.

What do you tell someone who has lost everything? In Japan, there is actually a word for the occasion: “gaman,” a quality both hard and soft. To practice gaman is to endure that which seems unendurable, with patience and grace.

To practice gaman is to make something from nothing. Interned men, for instance, used the boiler furnace to melt scrap metals — old saws, car springs, butter knives. With this liquid, they fashioned their own tools. In a camp in Rowher, Arkansas, Akira Oye hammered out a pair of scissors so lovely they could be the mascot for scissors everywhere.

These Crafts Made By Japanese-American Prisoners Will Renew Your Faith In Human Ingenuity

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