Kuniko Maeda - One to Watch 2018 (ND part 1)
University course - BA, MA Textile Design at Chelsea College of Arts, MA Fine Arts at Middlesex University.
"I am a Japanese designer and artist based in London, who works mainly with paper to create handmade jewellery, artworks, and installations for public and private spaces. I specialize in sustainable textile design and incorporate Japanese traditional techniques and digital technology to explore the potential in paper based materials and their unique properties. "
1. What was it like to be spotted by the judges as ‘One to Watch’ for 2018?
It was a big surprise for me as I did not expect to be spotted by the judges at all because I use very subtle colours and a limited colour pallete in my work. Therefore, when the judges awarded the prize "One to Watch " I was both amazed and delighted!
2. How important is colour in your work and why?
I always experiment with materials and colours to create 3D structural forms and textures, which is the most important part of my creative process. I use natural and subtle colours ,inspired by everyday surroundings. The colours provide an identity and unique character to my 3D structures and creates harmony with their shape.
I also experiment with colours created by nature. For example, I use Japanese traditional natural dye which is made from persimmon fruit. The colour becomes darker and deeper when in contact with sunlight. I also use a laser cutting machine for my work. As a laser is a kind of burning process, I appreciate the burnt marks left on my paper, which creates beautiful gradation. Therefore, this uncontrolled colouring process is a significant part of my work.
3. What or who inspires you?
My inspiration comes from our everyday surroundings and everyday materials, which tend to be overlooked and forgotten in a hectic urban life. In this project, I was inspired by pigeon feathers, which have a lightness, fluidity, flexibility and delicacy like paper, but are always undervalued. Used paper also inspires me because it is one of the most indispensable materials in our life, yet is one of the least appreciated materials as it is cheap and disposable. So I came up with an idea of adding value to paper and making it last longer rather than simply disposing and recycling it .I apply traditional craft techniques and modern technology to turn paper waste into a precious material.
4. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Blue sky and sunshine, which give me a positive energy and inspiration.
5. What would you like to achieve in the next year?
I would like to establish working relationships with commercial enterprises by way of artwork/design commissions and also for them to act as distribution channels for products such as my paper lampshades and items of jewellery. It would be great to have not only regular commission work, but also to see my product designs produce a regular stream of income from royalties. I would also like to achieve a healthy mix of personal and commercial clients.
In order to raise the profile of my business, I intend to display my work regularly at exhibitions and art galleries if possible. I would like more people to know what I am creating.
In terms of creativity, I will continue to explore and experiment, with one of my objectives being to make larger scale works of art. I would also like to share my knowledge with people who have an interest in art and textiles and intend to hold regular workshops in my studio in West Hampstead.
6. Tell us about someone who really made a difference to your creative journey in the past few years. Who are they and what did they do/say
For my MA project, I had very supportive tutors throughout my study. Lorna Bircham (MA Textile Design course leader at the Chelsea College of Arts) is one of them. She encouraged me to research my project by exploring all different aspects. She also allowed me to be more experimental and provided guidance right through the development of my project. In 2017, my project was selected as a finalist for Lexus Design Awards and I had the opportunity to make a presentation in front of prestigious professional creators during Milano Design week. They gave me very positive feedback and encouraged me to pursue my creativity. That experience was a big step for my creative career and gave me more confidence and inspiration.
7. What is your favourite colour?
I don't have any specific favourite colours, however I am always drawn to the colours that nature creates. For example, I like the colour of sky especially dusk. When I see the dynamic gradation of pinkish orange changing into light purple and blue, I feel peace and calm and admire the beauty of nature.
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