Interview: European Obi Artist

Japanese kimono and obi are widely regarded as cultural icons of Japan, and the related arts and traditional crafts associated with them are most often found only in Japan. The kimono has declined in the past several decades, and the industry is struggling.

However, there is a push to save the kimono, which includes the globalization of the art and practice of wearing kimono. Around the world, a handful of artists have stepped forward adding their own spin and aesthetic touch to kimono. Three Magpipes Studio is one such artist. They recently launched a beautiful line of handmade obi that stand out. Located in Europe they are bringing a fresh touch to the world of kimono. We recently were able to interview them, and feel that they are worth getting to know.

What drew you to Japanese kimono? How long have you worn kimono? “I was thrown into the kimono world by accident – a friend of mine sent me a package full of vintage kimono from Japan, so I started reading about it and I fell into it completely. It was about a year and half ago, so not that long time ago – but I met so many people on the way that it seems like ages.”

What made you decide to start designing your own obi? “I am an illustrator and fabric designer by profession, I fell in love with classic Japanese dyeing techniques and kimono motives, and I wanted to make something inspired by it. In the end it drifted completely into my own style but still – I gained lots of knowledge along the way and I still have mountains to learn.”

What are some of your favorite classic Japanese themes in terms of symbolism? “My absolute favorite when it comes to wafuku motives is Ebi, I love the ‘old man of the sea’ – it’s something that would be considered funny here, definitely inappropriate for anything formal and yet in Japanese culture, it carries different meaning. I think all the themes I like are like this – something that shows us to look differently at the things we think we know.”

Other than your website, do you sell in person anywhere? “I have only the website/facebook for now. But if someone would be in Kraków (Poland) and would like to see my workshop – I am usually here to sit, drink tea and talk about kimono .”

How long does creating a design for an obi take? Are there any specific considerations that go into designing an obi? “The fastest design I made took me about a week from the idea to sewing – but I am still learning. Once I have the placement of the designs on the fabric drafted, the most important thing is how the colors will act on the fabric I’ve chosen. I am experimenting with different types of fabrics – from chirinmen crepe to thick weaved, heavy fabrics – the amount of details I can put into the design depends mostly on how visible it will be on it. The thicker the fabric weave the simpler the drawing has to be so it doesn’t disappear in the heavy texture.” 

Please visit the artist’s website, and look at their wonderful products.




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