It was 1960s Okinawa, and the street was unpaved and covered with white limestone powder. The fabric of my mother’s flowy dress played in the gentle breeze. I remember a time at home, the amber ray of sun shining through my great grandmother’s bashofu — the semitransparent banana fiber fabric from Okinawa — kimono in the morning when I woke up. These are childhood memories of my encounters with textiles.
I studied handwoven indigenous Japanese textiles in Okinawa. And years later in New York City, I worked with a high-end Jacquard silk mill of Como, Italy, for a silk scarf collection I designed. Yet, the encounters of my childhood account for the reasons that I work with textiles. I understand that these profound influences are not based on the “feel” and the visual beauty of the fabrics but something unseen: history, tradition, culture, and the stories of the weavers and dyers.
I have met many lovely, humble, and resilient people through our trade. Their stories are women’s stories; each fabric tells the life of craft person; happiness and joy, struggle and perseverance, and hopes and dreams. And sometimes they reveal an important history of the region. I now use CAD tools to express my art with those discoveries (above) in mind. Occasionally I teach modern textile design to those indigenous craftspeople, and I never forget their generous contributions to society.