Friday, August 6, 2010

Tsutsumi et Cigarette

No, not a fragrance.

A reflection of two areas I have come across which offer the amazingly limbic pleasures of taking apart packaging.  A third would be, of course, perfume.
tsutsumi tea whisk

Tsutsumi is the Japanese art of gift wrapping with paper, historically more recent than furoshiki, which is wrapping with cloth.  Given the centuries of culture we're talking here, both are, to use a simple word, old.

The cellophane wrapping on a package of cigarettes?  Less than a hundred years.

I'm still trying to chase down the historical evolution of perfume packaging...not bottle design, but how the bottle is presented.  Especially the introduction of cello wrap.  Cellophane, invented in 1908.  Used for wrapping the perfume box?  Not sure.

Tactile and psychological pleasure from all?  Immeasurable.

As Tilda might this:

Pick up the package.  Sniff, just to see if there is product odor.  Generally, no.  Already noticing the smooth, sometimes slippery outer protective layer.  Depending on material and tightness of wrapping, perhaps an element of crinkle, both tactile and auditory.  If there is that element, an indulgence in a bit of rubbing, to feel/hear the crinkle again.  Think of skin slipping, just a little bit.  Wondering how much pressure it would take to break the seal.

If you are a careful present opener, you don't dare cross the line.  Because you are next headed to either end of the package, where the folded over ends of the outer layer meet, and are either glued or sticker sealed.  (Or both.)  A careful teasing apart of the flaps.  If all goes well, you are going to have an intact outer layer, like a complete cicada shell.

Or, if you are feeling wanton, a release of ripping and joyful noise.

Either way, you are now at the box.  And have another choice point.

I must interrupt here.  Because if it is a pack of cigarettes, you have either the challenge of a foil seal or a flip top box and THEN a foil overlayer.  If it is perfume, you either have another glued box, or a flap-in flip open top, or a specially presentation box.  (Special presentations are often top-lift-off-the base types, but can have intricate fold outs, or a combination thereof, like that bottle of Niki de Saint Phalle in parfum.)

Either product, whatever way, means you are now to the heart of the matter.  And it is from here on out that you WILL be careful.  You WILL choose to preserve and protect the shell.  Because, in your heart, even if it is a simple box that you break down and put in a shoe box of other broken down boxes and don't see again because the bottle is going somewhere probably protected but definitely where storage space is at a premium and therefore the box is baggage, even if so, you have a hard time throwing away the box.  At least right away.  And maybe forever.

What do I know from cigarettes?  Other than that pack I shared with Ava and Maggie back in our youth, which we kept sealed in a plastic bag and hid in a niche in the alley?  And lasted for weeks, maybe months?  Because we smoked it one shared cigarette at a time, only on days when we could all get to the tree?

Well, I know that my father smoked.  Plenty.  And my reward for running to the corner store and buying him a pack (or two, but never more than two at a time) was being given permission to open it.  I loved the crinkle...the peel...the careful dissembly of the foil so that ONLY that portion of the top on one side of the label across the middle would be revealed, and you could do that cool "tap tap" and shake out one cigarette, just one, kind of like and advanced move when dealing cards.

In Tsutsumi, the unwrapping has a somewhat different dynamic, but is also intricate.  The folding has been deliberate, and so will be the unfolding.  There are layers within layers, and often packaging inside packaging.  The texture of the paper, the sometimes representative shapes, the origami elements...makes the unwrapping a very mindful moment.

If you aren't the type who tears off the wrapping and rips apart a box to get at the contents.

I have been slowly getting to the heart of my treasures from Paris.  I am being mindful of their origin, my memories of where they came from, the salespeople, the lighting in the store, the testing process (if there was one).  But I must confess, while the Paris packages are extra special, my undoing of them is not more mindful.

The mindfulness just yields a different, somewhat deeper scope of treasure.

I don't smoke.  Never have, except for that one shared pack in my two months of wanton youth.  Okay, and another pack equivalent of singles bummed off smokers during a certain year of semi-clubbing.  But cigarette smoke has always led to headaches and nausea and it was never really the tobacco that was ever appealing.

It was the process.

Could there be some connection between that and the fact that the only place I've ever enjoyed tobacco is in perfume?

Along with, perhaps, the shared joy of cello wrap led undressing?

Photograph of tea whisk from the Kansai Window : Essence of Japan website.

History of Golden Belt Manufacturing, responsible for packaging Bull Durham (the tobacco, not the movie), here.


Josephine said...

OMG - I love this post and the connection you have drawn between cigarettes and perfume.

Although I don't smoke now, I did for a time in my 20's. I remember the attraction of opening a new pack carefully and with great thought. It was the foreplay to lighting the first one from the pack, watching the end illuminate and drawing the rich smoke into my lungs.

The first cigarette from pack always tastes better than the rest.

I am also a perfume-box-keeping geek. For some reason, it seems like treason to throw the box away and, to me, it always remains part of the perfume.

Perfume and cigarettes; both sensual pleasures that carry the risk of offending others.

flittersniffer said...

Great post - I have never interacted with a packet of cigarettes, so I didn't even know about the foil business!, but can relate to all you say about perfume wrapping. Old Serge has complex scents and correspondingly "intricate fold outs" that I can never jam back into the box. Kenzo Flower Oriental excited me as it has a scarlet "flap-in flip open" corrugated cardboard top (I do hope I am using these technical terms correctly) AND a complimentary oriental paper scroll...!

Regarding cloth wrapping, a singer songwriter friend who wrote a song about Sonia Ghandi, inspired by Ghandi's assassination in 1984, sent a CD of the track to her in India, and received back a lovely art book on India, a handwritten note, and the whole thing wrapped in a sumptuously embroidered cloth. It was the cloth and the note my friend treasures most!

ScentScelf said...

Josephine, it's a funny connection, given my decided non-interest in actually smoking the cigarettes. :)

But I totally understand the foreplay aspect...I remember watching various cigarette rituals, among various people at various stages in my life...always with keen interest.

In fact, I'm conjuring a total unwrapping daydream that is never consummated with the light. (Or maybe not with the first drag? That flick of the match, or hiss of the lighter, the bringing of it to your face...okay, it includes the light.)

Sensual pleasures that offend others, including me... unless I am the one indulging. ;) I am such a classically flawed human.

ScentScelf said...

Thanks, FS. I had to go back and make sure I hadn't mentioned the Serge pack, though it was that which prompted my musing. Well, I guess my little Paris stash in general, which includes my first ever bell jar. Which means a new package for my catalog of experience.

That Kenzo box sounds fun. Reminds me of my younger son recently expressing satisfaction with the snap/hinge closure on the paper Ricola box; there's something about going a step further. He's an origami person, btw; wonder if that underlies or emphasizes his appreciation.

OTOH, hinge flaps that are supposed to provide extra anchor but can't be undone without damaging the construction? Zorgh. Me no likey.

What a lovely thing, your friend's gift and her reception of it. I'm rather on her track, so to speak.

And yours, when it comes to technical terminology thingamabobs. ;)

Julia said...

Hi, I clicked on your blog from NST and I love your article on Tsutsumi! I practice origami and my favourite models to fold (in addition to my 1,000 cranes) are boxes. I absolutely adore little boxes of any kind, carved wood from Indonesia, bone from Turkey, silk and lacquer from China, paper and cloth from India all jostle together on my dresser and overflow on my bookshelves. I have a special love for perfume boxes, of course, and was just going through some of my empties and admiring them. The golden box from Guerlain with a silken interior made to fit a bottle of Shalimar just so, the original box that my vintage Bellodgia extrait arrived in that still smells of the treasure it has held for all these years, the black by Killian box which was stupid expensive but shows my dedication to presentation. I think my mother in law decided I was the one when my husband and I had been dating a few months and she saw me opening a gift from him very carefully, so as not to let the cello tape mar the paper, which I kept of course. I love my perfume bottles so much I can hardly bear to keep them in them in boxes where I can't see them, but I love the boxes so much that they are stored next to the bottles taking up much precious real estate in my perfume closet.
Thanks for a great article and I totally agree with you on the Attrape-Coeur love. I've been using a decant but decided to take the FB plunge and can hardly wait 'till it arrives. - Julia

ScentScelf said...

Julia, you fold? Have you seen the documentary Between the Folds? I saw it with same son and we both enjoyed it very much.

A great big smile here...yes, yes, what you said. I recall the presentation is a well-tended part of the By Killian experience, right? Haven't encountered a BK box/package yet myself, but I have read others talking about it. LOL at the bottle v box dilemma...and then of course there is the issue of how to display the bottles without exposing them to light! Oh, such troubles. ;)

I am so glad you did link over and peek, and hope to see you again. Congratulations on your FB purchase of Attrape-Coeur; given the combination of fabulous juice and Guerlain package, I think you'll find you have a complete winner.