Kimono Maker Wakako Harada Interview
Interview with Kimono Maker Wakako Harada
November 29, 2009
JapanVisitor.com spoke with Kyoto kimono maker Wakako Harada at her atelier just east of Daitokuji Temple.
Japan Visitor (JV):: Could you give us a short self-introduction?
Wakako Harada (WH):: Yes, I studied for two years at Kyoto Geijutsu Tanki Daigaku [now known as Kyoto Zokei Geijutsu Daigaku, or Kyoto University of Art and Design]. I majored in textiles and silk screening. Following that, I attended Kawashima Textile School for two years. There I studied ito zome (thread dyeing) and kijyaku (kimono making). After graduating from the School, I worked for six years at Kaji Orimono. Kaji is a well-known textile company in Kyoto. We made, among other things, garments for priests, as well as kimono.
JV: What happened next?
WH:: At that point, I was ready to go out on my own. For one year I pursued my dream of making my own kimono. Using a wooden loom [pictured below], I made kimono from scratch. Start to finish. All I did for one year was create kimono. To make a living, though, I ultimately had to take on other work in addition to the kimono side of things. From that point - in order to continue to create kimono - I subcontracted orders through an obi (sash) maker called Orikobo Hirai.
JV: How does that work?
WH: Orikobo sends me the design and all other order details. Then I make them here at my studio.
JV: So your work is basically divided between the obi side, which supports you, and the kimono side, which is where you design, create, and express yourself.
WH: That's right.
JV: Who orders the kimono? How does that side of your life work?
WH: I create pieces for friends, friends of friends, and sometimes through my father (who has a clothing store in Osaka).
JV: How long does it take to make and how much does a kimono usually sell for?
WH: Once the design is completed, it takes about 2-3 weeks to make a kimono. In terms of price, it varies depending on the materials, the number of colors - but in general about 200,000 yen. Considering the amount of time that goes into it, and the cost of the materials, I'm not making much (laughs).
JV: What materials do you use?
WH: Silk, plus gold and silver thread.
JV: What inspires you?
WH: Nature, first and foremost. I love the fall colors, for example, and the new green leaves in spring. In my kimono, I always try to express something related to the seasons. My second inspiration is serendipity. All of my kimono are originals - and cannot be replicated. Working from that premise, I of course use a design, but in the process of, for example, dyeing, the pattern will come out in unexpected ways. I love that.
JV: What about the future?
WH: My dream is to open my own studio in a few years. No matter how long I sit in front of the loom, time just flies. If I am at the computer for even an hour, I'll break down and weep (laughs). I make original kimono that, I hope, will be worn for a lifetime - and then passed on to the buyer's daughter. And the daughter will give it to her daughter. I prefer to create for friends and acquaintances so that I can see them in the kimono, so that I have an idea of their personality and style - and what kind of kimono will look best on that person.
JV: Do you create anything else beside kimono?
WH: Yes, I make cloth fans and some small things. The kimono, however, is my life work. I will do other work to support myself - but it is always so that I can create kimono.