Thursday, February 26, 2009

HIROCOLEDGE by Takahashi Hiroko + Interview A New Tradition that Blends into Modern Times by PingMag

"HIROCOLEDGE is a product brand directed by an artist, Takahashi Hiroko."
Kimonos one of the most traditional japanesse garments which is still commonly used. For Hiroko her approach intends to bridge with tradtion as a starting point; from a culture which is important to notice she belongs to and she grew up with. "The beginning of a new tradition", she states were kimonos since ancient times have had as signature of patterns, be they sewn, embroidered or dyed. By learning clothing and dyeing techniques, Hiroko developed her product brand.
New patterns; circles and dots, all graphic and with a pop look in them. The graphic approach for Hiroko is where she found the possibility of actualizing a design already embeded in the japanese culture for more than a hundred years. She calls it a meeting point where the Japan that she lives today, present-day meets Japan in the past while launching itself to the future; this she calls it her main strength. The ability to stamp her art work with an actual signature. The importance of tradition in her work is carefully balanced and most respect to the traditional techniques and craftsmen that have left this legacy is accounted for making her work come out of history and not detached from it.

HIROCOLEDGE: A New Tradition that Blends into Modern Times by PingMag

I know that you are involved in diverse creative
activities, but what exactly do you define your title as?

At the moment, I call myself an “artist” so that people can perceive me in a broader and freer sense, but to be honest, I haven’t been able to find a title that is right for me. I don’t differentiate my works of art and products as separate things; I approach them equally as different means of conveying my message.
So tell us about your brand, HIROCOLEDGE.

I see HIROCOLEDGE as an artistic activity. I want people to touch, feel, and enjoy works of art just as they do with products. I suppose they are both means of conveying the backgrounds of making things.

Items from HIROCOLEDGE have particularly striking modernistic patterns, but is there anything you are particular about when it comes to the patterns?

As you may know, there are patterns that were created especially for Yuzen dyeing, so in the old days unique Japanese patterns must have developed hand in hand with the craftsmanship. But even though dyeing skills have evolved, the development of patterns has stopped. I suppose the fact that the kimono is no longer the everyday wear of Japanese people is part of the reason, but in nature, I feel that patterns that reflect the era should continue to evolve together with the skills. At the moment, I am challenging myself by seeing how much originality I can express with the minimum elements of black and white, circles and straight lines, and the shape of the traditional kimono. In this era of expressions with freedom, I’m making it a point to limit the available elements, and aiming to make things in a lean way that reflects the times. Because it’s a flat garment with large surface area, there should be lots of things I can do with it.

That’s a wonderful aspiration. I hear that you frequently visit many regional factories. What is your opinion on the materials and manufacturing skills?

Regarding the materials and skills, I think there are things that you can change, things that you cannot change, and things that you mustn’t change, but I always consult my craftsmen during the process. When I draw an initial rough sketch, I first show it to them, and then we consider the available options together. Design comes after that, but it’s not unusual to be told, “I think we can do it, but I’ve never done it before.” However, challenges might lead to a new step, so I do make tough requests to the craftsmen from time to time.

Can you give us an example of a work that was born out of the challenge and the efforts of the craftsmen?

I once designed a Nishijin obi in simple black and white, but weaving usually causes the colors of the crossing threads to blend into each other. So it was extremely difficult to show pure black and pristine white, but the craftsman kindly stopped all his other work and spent almost 3 months experimenting with techniques, and the obi was completed after much trial and error. When it was finished, I heard that many people in Nishijin came to have a look at it, which was unprecedented at the time.

The craftsman must have been happy with his new discovery too.

Yes, the sense of accomplishment was especially big for both of us, so there is a special attachment to it. The craftsman is really happy whenever this obi is introduced at various occasions.

Incidentally, the movement of rediscovering Japanese traditions and bringing them back in a new form is increasing considerably. How do you feel about such trends from an objective point of view?

Personally, I am also included in such trends, but I find that breaking down fixed concepts while preserving the areas that shouldn’t be changed is an extremely important thing. For example, I often see collaborations by students and traditional craftsmen, but the works produced from there seem to be heavily influenced by classical patterns. By that I mean that many people are too influenced by the past; it seems like they are mired in it.

I don’t exactly feel that my design is consciously Japanese, but I’m really happy whenever foreign people who look at my work say that my pattern is Japanese, because I think it’s natural that a pattern made by a Japanese artist should feel Japanese. That’s perhaps why some people say that my kimonos blend naturally into the modernistic spaces of today’s Japan.

I feel that today’s design is expected to provide substance. If you become too conscious of the superficial elements in your pursuit for a Japanese design, then it often becomes an awkward design. But if you have a better understanding of the roots of manufacturing and the backgrounds of how that item came to be born, then it should give you a different picture. I think Japanese items that fit into these modern times will then be created more naturally.
And finally, what is the message that you are trying to convey through HIROCOLEDGE?

I want to make things in such a way that everyone involved in the item, including the people making it and the people using it, will all be happy. There is an underlying presence of history, skills, craftsmanship, and tools for everything, but it’s naturally quite difficult to sense such things. And if you think about the global environment, now is an era where unnecessary things shouldn’t be produced at all. That’s why as a creator I want to convey such messages, while cherishing the process at the same time. And by sensing such things, I think the feeling of treasuring something will come to the user too. But that doesn’t mean that the background of making things is the sole paramount factor either. After all, the impact of the appearance is crucial, as it won’t even be picked up if it can’t attract people’s attention. Because we live in an era with a lot of products, I want to make things that would make people want to pass it down to others in the future.

Designer of HIROCOLEDGE, Hiroko Takahashi.

With so much passion for your creative activity, you must have a great relationship with your craftsmen.

Yes, many of the craftsmen that I work with come from the same generation. They have great skills as professionals, but compared to older craftsmen approaching their 80s they still lack in experience. But young craftsmen kindly feel that we are going to grow together. I share the same feeling, and hope to increase our experiences together.

Hiroko, thank you very much for your time today. We look forward to seeing your collaborative partnership with the craftsmen give birth to many more wonderful Japanese works!

No comments:

Post a Comment