portrait 007 : Ami / Ken : whitish cloud, beyond the blue
< meeting with slow craft >
Ken (K) : BUNON is a collaboration between the handicraft artisans in India and the design/creative team in Tokyo. I first met Soumitra from India at one of the shows in Paris where I was exhibiting as some other Japanese brand. He said he and his wife Srima had their own brand using the silk textiles woven in their workshops, and would like to make a collection like the one we were showing there. We had some talks, and after a while, he sent us a selection of the samples to our atelier in Tokyo. I usually work with linen a lot and do not work with silks, but when I saw their beautiful textiles, I just thought that we might be able to make something interesting, and something I like, together with them.
I knew they do handicrafts so well and have got great skills as they make traditional dress Sari, but had never made a collection together with the team outside of Japan. I had no idea how to proceed, but decided to have a try, just following my first feeling.
< silk from the green forest>
K : I first visited India in 2018, visiting his workshops. On my third visit, I learned that they worked with wild silk from the forest. It was really a surprise because I had thought they raised silkworms somewhere like cocoonery, and had never thought they got them from nature.
As the silks we use are from forests, the silk yarns have different shades or textures for each season. They are so unique and never the same.
< sense of wonder >
K : Their workshops are located in the small villages in India, and the nearest one to the airport is about 2 hours drive from Kolkata, and the farthest takes about 7 hours. Women spin yarns, and men weave fabrics. It seems to me, that they have been doing these for years and years to live. But time passes and things are changing, so maybe nobody could keep these skills at some point in the future. We would like to maintain the valued tradition and hand it over to the future.
Handicrafts take a lot of time and care, and it seems to me that the artisans working for us do not have a sense of “bother”. Nobody looks unhappy doing those intricate works, and they always try to respond to our expectations. Of course things are not easy and we often face challenges and problems we had never imagined, but that is also an interesting part of the collaboration between the team in other countries.
<roller coaster in (e)motion >
K : Taking our second collection, we first exhibited at Designers & Agents in New York in 2019, with a tiny small booth filled with our pieces. I thought earlier the better to challenge the show. The customers in the US are so receptive and appreciate the uniqueness. Our very first customer was the shop called ATLANTIC, and they keep buying from us since then, that we really appreciate.
Whenever we are at the show, we get so nervous and always have a fear that nobody would be coming to see us, but on the other hand, we receive compliments with the words beyond our imagination, like “your creation is like Opera”. Exhibiting at the fair is something like getting on an emotional roller-coaster, from depression to joy, which is quite wild.
< who makes where>
We call what we do as slow craft, and it cannot be mass-produced.
We do not care about the quantity. We care about the uniqueness of what we make.
We do not keep stock. If we find something defective in production, we repair it before sending it to the customers.
Simply, we do things properly that customers would find interesting.
We have our Instagram account and do not have our own website. We do not talk about ourselves much and deliver smallest messages. It is fine that not many people know who make BUNON and where, and we simply hope people enjoy what we make.
< what we see >
Ami (A) : We would like to create a space to express the world of BUNON. We don’t know it would be in Japan, and it can be anywhere.
I know what I like is something not so many people like, so it would be a great joy if my selection would be received favorably.
< The colors of us >
K : I think I am dark navy. I wish I were nice clean blue, but I don’t think I am. Black leads me and I can never be white.
A : I think, I am not pure white. Light beige.
K : Ami is something whitish, but not snow white. It is like off white.
A : Kenny is … black ? Something dark.
< Question from another artist : portrait 001 Shinji >
What is time for you ?
A : It changes depending on myself. When I am having fun, it passes so quick. We are always with time, but sometimes it chases us. I want to take care of the time most, but the reality is, I think I care least.
K: The moment I feel the existence of the time most, is when I am exhibiting at the fairs. It feels like forever when nobody comes in our booth, and at the same time, I never want the time passes by.
< Questions to the future contributors >
1. The moment you are wowed by ?
2. If you use 3 colors in combination, what do you choose ?
3. If you could have something that couldn’t be bought for money, what would that be ?
About Ami and Ken :
BUNON is a small but strong team, trusting each other, and do things to be trusted by customers. We (as I am also a member of the team BUNON) don’t talk much about ourselves, and work quietly hoping to bring something beautiful and something we simply love, together with the team in India, led by Srima and Soumitra. This story is about Tokyo part, and I am hoping to write the story about India part some time in the future, to complete the whole story about BUNON.
Interview with Ami/Ken from BUNON
Photographer : Masa Hamanoi
July 2021 at studio gris II, Nihonbashi, Tokyo