Q – Could you introduce yourself briefly to the readers?
My name is Jo Ikeda of Imari Design. I’m fairly new to the art scene, only starting to create bags and accessories from Japanese kimono last summer. I’m a young mum with a passion for fabric, fashion, history and I’m a bit of a bookworm too. I collect kimono and other Japanese paraphernalia.
Q - How did you become interested in art?
Last year my mother-in-law sent me an off-cut from an exquisite vintage gold wedding kimono (uchikake) from Japan for my collection. I had no idea what to do with it, but knew it was asking to be made into something, ‘up-cycled’ if you like. My neighbour, and good friend, suggested a bag. After many hours of fiddling around and re-visiting a sewing machine for the first time since GCSE, my first handbag was created. There has been no going back ever since!
Q - What inspires you most as an artist?
Unusual colour combinations, traditional Japanese dress, geometric patterns, oriental symbolism, kabuki and 1970’s psychedelic fashion.
Q - What is your favourite medium or media? Why?
Without a doubt Japanese Kimono Obi Brocade. I hand-pick these sashes myself from Japan-the brighter the colours, the better. The embroidery is so luxurious and the material such good quality-perfect for bag making. There is also the added feature that somebody in the past has worn and loved the kimono, which adds authenticity. The materials I use are unique pieces of social history. You rarely find two obis exactly the same, which means my creations are one-of-a-kind.
Q - Could you tell us some more about your work?
My designs are built round the beautiful fabrics and are real conversation starters. There is a lot of symbolism behind most Japanese kimono designs and almost all of the patterns have hiddenmeanings. (For example a background of hexagons represents Tortoiseshell, which traditionally symbolises longevity) Where possible I try to include this as a feature of my designs because I feel that this background information into Japanese culture adds another dimension to the pieces. I love re-working vintage textiles into something that functions in a different way in a modern setting.
I also make smaller pieces like corsage brooches, phone pouches and wallets.
Q - How would you define your style?
Unique and bright. No two of my obi bags are exactly the same. I like to cut the fabric around the design to include certain features, which means that I don’t normally stick to patterns. I have made some great bags from patterns, but they can also be restricting.
Q - What are your influences; artists from the past or present who inspire you?
Anna Niponica, a lady who re-works kimono into exquistite western style dresses.
Q- How do you prepare yourself for an exhibition or a show like the Open Studios?
I wish I had time to make more handbags to display. I juggle looking after a family and sewing whenever I can. But I do aim to have a couple of new designs made in time for Open Studios.
Q - As an artist, what would be your dream?
My short term goal is to invest in a new sewing machine, as my current one is very old!
My long-term dream would be to be able to travel to Japan on fabric buying trips every year and to run cosy bag making/corsage making workshops for small groups from a home studio.
Q - Could you share one thing that you have learnt in your own art practice that would be useful to other artists?
Never rush to finish a piece of work. If things aren’t going the way I planned, the best thing I find is to sleep on it and wake up with a fresh perspective in the morning.