Designer Spotlight: Hiroko Takeda

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By Liz Arnold
Weaver and textile artist Hiroko Takeda keeps a studio on the ninth floor of an old industrial building in downtown Brooklyn, where she works on various client commissions and her own one-off art projects.

Looking at the work of textile artist Hiroko Takeda, one might admire what appears to be an ancient craft: exquisite natural and synthetic fibers woven into 3-D honeycomb patterns or ethereal veils. But to Takeda—who studied textiles at the Royal College of Art after training in the Mingei arts and crafts tradition in her native Japan—her designs are a radical departure. Takeda’s work often includes metallic accents or colorful flourishes, contemporary elements of which her early teachers disapproved. "I didn’t like the traditional technique," she says. "I thought it was ‘old lady.’"

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Takeda uses two looms, a Macomber Dobby with 16 harnesses—“old but very stable and reliable”—which she inherited from Larsen Design Studio, and a computerized AVL Compu-Dobby loom, which she can program in order to test new materials and weaving techniques.

Takeda’s two decades of work certainly doesn’t read as geriatric. Peter Marino, a regular client, doesn’t think so; he’s commissioned her to design silver draperies and wall tapestries for couture fashion boutiques in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Neither does Calvin Klein Home, for which she designs throw blankets. Nor does Jack Lenor Larsen, who hired her as a designer in New York after she won his student competition. Takeda worked at Larsen’s company for eight years, absorbing qualities of the designer she’d long admired, such as how he sourced ethnic craft techniques while also minding practical concerns like durability. Having a network of specialized artisans who could reproduce her handmade creations helped immensely when she struck out on her own. In 2010, she set up a studio in downtown Brooklyn, within walking distance of her home.

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One of those experiments has yielded a recurring series of waffle structures.

"I have always thought of myself as a student," she says, though she’s open to teaching should the opportunity arise. Currently, she’s aiming to exhibit some art pieces, like a blue honeycomb wall hanging she brushed with a gel bleach. The bottom line is "to keep making something that has soul," she says. "I want to keep intimacy in all my designs."

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For this art piece, which she says is inspired by the “quiet but powerful” Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, Takeda wanted to “capture a subtlety of colors” by using bundled silk tape for depth and texture.

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“I have always thought of myself as a student.”—Hiroko Takeda