Upcycled Tobacco Pouch with Traditional Japanese Aesthetic

For my upcycling project I want to create something I’ll actually end up using that also has a strong aesthetic. For products like this I usually look for historical or traditional examples. Oftentimes objects with strong tradition have elaborate rules for decoration, but also are rooted in purpose. Using new materials in conjunction with old ideas is one of my favorite things in design.

I started by thinking of a material, one I’ve seen used well before in clothing upcycling projects is plastic shopping bags. When layers of them are ironed together, they create a strong material with a unique texture. All while utilizing something made to be thrown away. Then I thought of what I might want to make out of it. Something I don’t already have that I will use often. During this time my disposable tobacco pouch was looking especially worn down and I figured I could make a new one with some upgraded features.

Next came the aesthetic, I simply googled ‘historical tobacco pouches’ and was rewarded with some interesting designs from the Civil War era, and more visually interesting Native American and Japanese designs. I considered my material, layers of possibly different colored bags. and found that it would be most practical to recreate the Japanese aesthetic of larger color blocks representing images than the fringed, beaded Native American design.

I should be able to leverage the plastic layers to create a nice Japanese inspired pouch using old shopping bags.

bretgaunt, Author: et al. “Native American Tobacco Pouches.” Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, 20 Jan. 2023, https://buxtonmuseumandartgallery.wordpress.com/2022/04/29/native-american-tobacco-pouches/.

“Japanese Meiji Tobacco Pouch with Netsuke Ojime Dragons.” Antiques, Art, Vintage, https://www.goantiques.com/japanese-meiji-tobacco-1400309.

“Japanese Tobacco Pouch with Kagamibuta Netsuke.” Clars Auction Gallery, https://live.clars.com/lots/view/1-1F4X7W/japanese-tobacco-pouch-with-kagamibuta-netsuke.

“Tobacco Pouch or Sweet Bag.” – Works – New-York Historical Society, https://emuseum.nyhistory.org/objects/30110/tobacco-pouch-or-sweet-bag.

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • The historical Japanese aesthetic is beautiful with a lot of unique colors! I think this is a strong choice of project especially considering that you want to be able to use it in the future. It wasnt clear to me if you would be using leather or the material you mentioned your previous pouch was made out of. Do you know what materials you will be using to create this item?

    • Thanks, yeah I’ll try to edit the post to clear it up, but I’ll be using that shopping bag material. I’ve seen it used in other projects but not a pouch yet.

  • This sounds awesome! Implementing historical design into your pouch will definitely be a fun aspect to this project. Do you have experience working with leather before, or will you be learning on the go? You mentioned a couple historical time periods, what era of history are you leaning towards implementing in your pouch?

    • I have experience working with leather, I’ve made a few wallets. But I don’t plan on using any for this. Definitely using the Japanese style pictured above


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