Youko Koga, Qualified Weaver of Hakata-Ori Textiles
She was a member of Hakataori Development College's second graduating class. Since 2012, she has produced "Hakata Ori" woven textiles in her home, focusing on obis (kimono sashes). Koga says, "The loom is tall, so I raised the ceiling, and lowered the floor by 20 cm." There are two looms installed. The tall one is for obis, and the smaller one is for material for kimonos. Setting up a studio in her home was tough, but now she can really devote herself to her daily weaving. Her childhood dream was to be either an archaeologist or an astronaut. Although Koga's mother always wore kimonos and she came into contact with traditional Japanese arts such as Noh chanting since she was small, she says that she never imagined she would become a Hakata Ori weaver.
She comes up with the obi designs and patterns herself. "I made an obi pattern out of a flower of my favorite color. I like designs that show movement, like images of mountains." When she occasionally gets worn down while weaving, she goes mountain climbing or takes a walk to refresh herself. She says that during those times, she'll sometimes suddenly get an idea for a design. She also makes small accessories, like pouches, using her obi cloth.
On this day, Koga was starting an obi for a woman in Osaka who saw her blog and made an order. She was in the process of binding together the lengthwise threads, and one by one she tied together 7,000 to 8,000 threads by hand. It seems like an overwhelming task, but Koga herself says, "This is the time when my mind feels the most free. I like this task the best. Because once you start weaving, you can't change it anymore." She was given complete control over the design, but she must create something to suit the customer's request for a kimono to wear to watch Kabuki.
Each weaver's body of work has its own flavor. "My work is a part of me. I think I like my own work more than anyone else. When I see someone wearing my obi, I think: 'That's me!'" She says that she'll never forget when someone who bought her obi said, "I fell in love at first sight. I'll treasure this." She posts updates on her blog, "Daily handicrafts...weaving steadily by hand all year round"