Textiles of Hiroshi Saito at Honen-in in Kyoto

Posted on July 5, 2018 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

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Honen-in temple by the Philosopher's path


The older I get, the more I believe that everything happens for a reason, which includes the people we encounter over the course of our lifetime. And since I started running my own business, I discovered that when you follow your heart and passion, you are likely to attract the right people and opportunities. The road may still be bumpy, but perseverance and patience will get you through if you believe you are on the right track.

My interest in Japanese textiles started in 1998, after seeing an awe-inspiring exhibition at MOMA in NYC. Since then, I have taken various part-time courses on textiles, but it remained as a hobby after work. Last year, I decided to take a sabbatical to pursue my interests properly as I realised that I want to return to my roots - to design and create - and step back from the business side.

The itinerary I created for my Japan trip combined textiles, paper, nature and hiking - things and activities that I love. Although textiles was not on my agenda in Kyoto, I was fortunate enough to meet Kyoto-based textiles artist Hiroshi Saiton by chance at the Honen-in, which was a wonderful serendipitous encounter.






Like I mentioned in my previous entry, the Philosopher's path in Kyoto can be quite daunting during the cherry blossom season due to the amount of tourists. Nonetheless, there are some smaller or less well-known temples near the path that are quite tranquil even in the peak seasons, and Honen-in is one of them. I remember visiting this delightful 17th century temple 12 years ago, which has changed little since my last visit. Yet what caught my attention this time was a poster of a textiles exhibition (for 1 week only) pinned on a wall outside of the temple...






With no clear signage, it took me sometime to find the exhibition hall, but as soon as I walked into the building, I was immediately struck by the beautiful textiles hanging at the entrance. I felt so excited to see all the vibrant colours, abstract forms and nature-inspired motifs hanging around the hall/corridor. Then I saw the friendly Kyoto-based textiles artists Mr Hiroshi Saito explaining his work to a korean visitor, and when they finished their conversation, I went to him to ask him more about his work. Mr Saito told me that in his eary career, he specialised in the traditional yuzen-dyeing techniques, and spent decades using synthetic dyes, but in recent years, he switched to natural dyes and has not used the synthetic ones again. It was very encouraging to hear, and when I showed him some photos of the natural and indigo dyeing workshops that I did in London, he looked thrilled and patted on my back with with a big smile on his face.


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Mr Saito was deeply affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 (which was partly why he switched to natural dyeing), so he started to travel to the Tohoku region to organise textiles activities for children to take part in. He also showed me photographs of the amazing paint brushes that he created out of various plants in place of conventional brushes. At the end of our conversation, I told him that I really like his beautiful shirt, and would have to take a photo of it (see above). I was very touched by Mr Saito's generosity, openness, and his inspiring textiles designs. I really hope that I can pay his studio a visit the next time I am in Kyoto.

There is not a lot of English info on the artist via the internet, but you can find his work on his studio/gallery Kaze Kobo's Facebook page, and his community work here (in Japanese only but there are many lovely photos).









This post was posted in Japanese design, Travel, Anything Japanese, Kyoto, Contemporary craft, Designers & artists, Design, Japan, Textiles, natural dyeing and was tagged with Japanese designs, Kyoto, temples, contemporary crafts, textiles, natural dyeing, Hiroshi Saito