key text 2 / by Georgia Dorey

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How to Wrap Five More Eggs, Hideyuki Oka

“First and foremost is that source that might be called the utilitarian lineage, a kind of crystallisation of the wisdom that comes from everyday life. Doubtless the earliest packaging was accomplished by wrapping a given object in whatever material lay at hand. The outcome was often not only adequate for storing and transporting the object but might well have been a simple, beautiful shape free from all excess and extravagance." 

"Who could find anything to criticise about these utilitarian wrappings, these crystallisations of everyday wisdom? In no way self-conscious or assertive, these wrappings have an artless and obedient air that greatly moves the modern viewer. They are whispered evidence of the Japanese ability to create beauty from the simplest products of nature. They also teach us that wisdom and feeling are especially important in packaging because these qualities, or the lack of them, are almost immediately apparent. What is the use of a package if it shows no feeling?"

"The second clearly recognisable lineage is what we may call handicraft. This involves more highly developed techniques and more refined aesthetic sensibilities. Departing from considerations of sheer utilitarianism, the packagers of this lineage were self-conscious craftsmen who endeavoured to refine their methods and did so in a spirit of artistry. For them the act of packaging came to have important meaning in itself quite apart form the importance of the contents of the package. The package came to have a symbolic value quite distinct from its practical function. As techniques became more and more sophisticated, the art of packaging became professionalized. it was a profession followed by artisans working in old, long-established shops. These were dedicated people who took pride in developing the techniques, in making more and more beautiful packages, until at last they achieved a level of competence so high as to constitute a unique peak in the history of packaging.”