With the arrival of a lovely range of new Kyoko 'dotty' and 'netty' scarves, we thought it was prime time to chat to Japan-born Kyoko Osato about her amazing one-woman show Kyoko Designs. Kyoko tells us about the joy of hand-weaving, balancing a business and a family as well as managing every aspect of her business on her own.
S: First up, could you tell us a little bit about your background? You are originally from Japan, what inspired you to live in Australia? How long have you been here and what path led you to what you do now?
KO: I stayed in Melbourne with a working holiday visa in 1994 and loved this city. I came back here in 1999 for a year and still loved this city. Everything goes really well when I am in Melbourne so I thought why not live here for good. Finally in 2002, I came back again to study textile design at RMIT and I have been here since. I grew up playing with fabric and yarn, my mother was a seamstress, so choosing to study textile design was a natural thing. Weaving was one of the subjects at RMIT and I really enjoyed it. I've been weaving since then. I keep doing what I like and that's how I got to where I am.
S: Your scarves are hand woven, more like wearable sculpture than clothing. Could you give us an insight into what inspires you to create such unique pieces?
KO: When I was studying weaving at RMIT, I made a sample piece which became more than just a flat piece of fabric. I then realised that how fun it is to make something which has a shape rather than just two dimensions on the weaving loom. Traditionally, weaving is used to create a flat piece of fabric. Using the same traditional technique combined with a technique of felting, I'm trying to achieve some kind of depth, fabric with more surfaces to see. I have been using a shape of scarf as a way to show my ideas because scarves are very accessible to people.
S: All your pieces are handmade. With so many Australian companies now having products manufactured overseas and mass-produced, why do you choose to produce Kyoko scarves in Australia? What challenges/triumphs have you faced keeping your production local?
KO: Weaving is such an old technique to make textiles. Everyone uses woven fabric on the day to day basis such as your jeans, tea towels and bed linen, but not many people know how the woven fabric is made. Most of them are manufactured on a machine in a factory so we rarely see the process. From what I make, I'm hoping to let people know that hand weaving is still around even in a developed country like Australia and can be used to make contemporary pieces. The challenge I have been facing from how I produce my products is to keep the cost low. Weaving is a very time consuming work. Most of the cost is my labour. This is one of the reasons my designs are quite simple.
S: Could you give us a bit of insight to the way Kyoko functions as a business? Do you have a team of staff working with you or do you fly solo? How does the day-to-day operation of Kyoko work - what would a typical day involve for you?
KO: From the admin work to the production, I'm running my entire business on my own. My day used to start from working on my computer in the morning and weaving in the afternoon, but lately my life is slightly different. A new little person joined my life recently so my business will need to be adjusted in the future. I'm only making winter products at the moment so the way my business works changes month to month. I do the design work in spring, stock making in summer, dispatching orders in autumn, and a bit of relaxing in the winter.
S: And lastly, what’s your favourite Kyoko creation to keep you warm in the winter months?
KO: Samples! I have to try many times to finalise my recipes for my scarves so I have many samples. At the moment, my favourite is a Netty Tube scarf sample.
Thank you Kyoko! We love knowing that there are still designers and makers producing their own wares by hand. Kyoko's elegant range of scarves are now in at Stockroom, perfect for those chilly days.