From her downtown Brooklyn studio, Hiroko Takeda handcrafts inventive, sculptural textile works ranging from site-specific installations to home furnishings. Takeda’s refined material sensibility is evident in her manipulation of opacity, texture and hue. Functioning both as singular art objects and home furnishings, her work invokes a unique balance of both synthetic and organic sensations.
The exceptional quality of her craft reflects Takeda’s range of professional experiences. Raised in Japan, Takeda studied Japanese textiles techniques in Tokyo in the Mingei tradition (the Japanese Arts and Crafts Movement) and completed her graduate studies at the Royal College of Art in London. During her time at the RCA, she won a student competition held by textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen's studio, which led to her working at Larsen's studio in New York. In 2010, Takeda set up her own textile studio in Brooklyn. Takeda was kind enough to share her background and inspirations with us via email:
You were trained in the Mingei Art and Crafts tradition, does this inform your contemporary practice?
Weaving is such a historical practice and I learned a lot of traditional textile techniques in Japan, including the philosophy of the Mingei. I weave contemporary pieces for a contemporary world, but I adapt techniques and approaches I learned in that tradition.
In the Mingei philosophy, beauty comes from people's every day lives and things they use. In this philosophy, function enhances beauty and beauty enhances function. It's the opposite of decoration for decoration's sake. I cannot follow 100% this principal but I keep it somewhere inside of me.
Can you share with us a little about your approach and process?
I get inspiration from everywhere—places I’ve traveled and lived, people and things I observe on the street, art, movies, everything… The mood of what I experience becomes my inspiration.
I usually have a project or concept in my mind and a mood. I make sketches and pin materials and drawings on the wall, live with them while working on something else. Sometimes I work very quickly. For other projects, I need to let ideas gestate and make adjustments over time.
Weaving is such a detail-oriented process. How did you get into it and what do you like (or dislike) about it?
I discovered weaving when I was first thinking about going to art school. One night I snuck with some friends into a textile studio. I remember seeing some student work in progress on a loom. It was night, no one was around, everything was still. I was struck by the sight of the threads on the loom turned into fabric. I was fascinated straight away.
I like engineering the elements—choosing the structure and materials and colors to compose and construct. I’ve had the experience of people watching me weave say that it looks meditative. For me, it’s more like mountain climbing toward my goal.
You use a lot of interesting fabric blends. What are your favorite materials to work with?
I wouldn’t say that I have favorites. It’s the coming together of contrasting materials that I favor.
What's inspiring you these days?
Recently, the color and mood of the Golden Age Dutch paintings have inspired me. Also, the art of Mamma Andersson, a contemporary Swedish painter whose work I love.
What's a typical day like in your studio?
I often work on art projects and design projects on the same day. In no particular order: skyping with a technician at a mill overseas, communicating with clients, making a sketch, drawing a weaving plan, running into Manhattan for a meeting, sending specifications to a mill, supervising an assistant, ordering yarn, winding yarn, mixing yarn, dyeing yarn, prepping a loom, weaving on one loom, then on another, preparing a shipment, responding to an inquiry…
When you're not in the studio, what are some of your favorite Brooklyn spots?
I enjoy watching the life on the Fulton Mall near my studio, and the giant text art on the facades and walkways of Macy’s parking lot there. BAM is a favorite spot. My previous studio was just across the street and at night, I often admired the light art on the facade. I like the new piers at Brooklyn Bridge Park and studying how the city is changing. I like the Japanese food at Hibino and check out their obanzai from time to time (see HIbino's daily specials here).
Many thanks to Hiroko for sharing with us! Be sure to check out her work, currently on view at Colony (324 Canal St. 2nd Floor, New York, NY). For more information and glimpses of her work, visit her website: hirokotakeda.com.
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY ELLIOT WALTERS