How a Japanese family of skilled needle-crafters became interested in macramé, started tying knots in fibre glass and made it look like lace, landed a large order for a the costumes of a well-known theme park and now roam Amsterdam looking for new connections with Dutch designers.
Surrounded by large suitcases with bright lighted samples of macramé fibre glass, Asako Inamori is happy to talk about her work although it is early in the morning.
She is producer of Philknot Art Studio, who are specialised in creating pieces of fibre optics, for use in interior design, lighting and costumes. This is her first business trip to Europe, made possible by SME Support, a Japanese organisation supporting small and medium enterprises. Senior adviser Yoko Ogawa and Deputy manager Takayasu Kimura accompany Philknot on this European adventure, which will also include France and Britain.
The roots of Philknot Art Studio are deep: the great-grandmother of producer Asako Inamori was a talented needle worker making embroidery. This skill was handed down through the generations. Inamori’s mother became interested in macramé technique over forty years ago, and established Madam Hisako ltd in 1986, a knitting school.
‘Whenever my mother sees a long thread, she wants to make a knot in it’, Inamori smiles. ‘And one day she came across fibre glass. While working with it, she discovered that only the knotted part emits light, since fibre glass lights up where you cut it, and this is what you do to make the knot.
This was a big surprise and a new discovery, so her mother was very pleased.
Your work can be adopted everywhere: bars, costumes, wedding dresses
It is great fun working with it. What is great is when you start, you just have this transparent threads, and then when it is finished and you switch it on, it becomes alive.
How did the company evolve?
My mother and myself started working with it. After three years of making small items and investing with it. When we showed these small pieces, luckily enough it caught the eye of a journalist, who wrote a tiny article about it. This article reached the Tokyo branch of a world-famous theme park. They were planning a show ‘Night Parade’ and thought they maybe could include this new macramé technique in their costumes. They asked us whether we could make 150 pieces for them in ten months. The staff then consisted of me, my mother and my aunt and everything is hand-made. But not for a moment did we hesitate: of course we could! This was in 1995. So the knitting school Madame Hisako transformed into this small company Philknot. It now has six employees. We are always looking for new applications of our knotted fibre optics technique.
Is the Netherlands inspiring?
One of the objects which really moved me here was the Knotted Chair of Marcel Wanders, since this is so much the connection of my mother’s work to contemporary design.
After having visited Moooi and the New Institute in Rotterdam in previous days, they now head out for IJburg.
Inamori looks pleased: ‘I was a little anxious before setting out for this trip, unsure of whether our work would connect to that of designers here, but now I know I will definitely be back!’.