October 29, 2020

Finding Joy Beneath and Beyond the Textile Surface

布の向こう側に見つける喜び<br>YURI HIMUROのテキスタイル

Interviewed by Haruko Kohno
All images courtesy of YURI HIMURO

FLOWERS. Photo by Masahiro Muramatsu


Like illustrations from a storybook, Yuri Himuro’s textile designs have a narrative touch to them. The pattern of a cushion cover she designed depicts a verdant mountain village with a stag and a doe. It’s a versatile design, with subdued shades suitable to coordinate with any couch or room. However, Yuri wants her audience to take scissors and snip the woven surface threads of her apparently finished design. This bold step is how we are invited into her SNIP SNAP textile series.

I take my scissors, slip the blade under the weft strands and carefully cut into the area around the stag’s feet. Underneath the green is the color blue, and I instantly realize that what I’m seeing is a running stream where the stag is quenching its thirst. Next, I brush away the loose threads, and small red fish appear in the now exposed blue water.

I no longer hesitate with my scissor strokes. In search of new motifs hidden beneath the fabric surface, I am now eager to literally cut into this forest. I become even more creative with my cutting action. By leaving some fabric ends loose in the background, I can create the image of leaves rustling in the wind. This is how a “picture” gradually blossoms into a “story” in a SNIP SNAP fabric.

 SNIP SNAP series SATOYAMA. Photo by Masahiro Muramatsu


The secret behind this textile is a unique mechanism based on Jacquard weaving. Whereas a dobby loom is best for simple geometric patterns, a Jacquard loom allows for intricate designs because warp yarns can be controlled individually. Yuri’s SNIP SNAP textiles are double-layered, where the top layer consists of “floating” weft strands and the bottom layer includes complex patterns. By snipping the top layer, the patterns underneath are revealed.

The space beneath the wool strands is, figuratively speaking, the very room we are given to enter into Yuri Himuro’s artistic realm. It’s her work, but she generously encourages us as if to say, “go ahead, finish my piece as you like.” Aside from the deer-in-forest cushions, SNIP SNAP textiles are used for an array of items including fabric panels and furniture upholstery. There are other designs featuring archaeologists digging for dinosaur bones and people ice fishing for smelt. In every design, the cutting action becomes a gratifying experience, whether it be a ‘discovery’ or an ‘achievement.’ 


SNIP SNAP series LAPLAND. Photo by Kazuya Shioi

Yuri says, “I’ve had many people buy this series, from parents who want to commemorate their child’s first experience of using scissors, to a café owner who asks his customers to snip the cloth every time they stop by, or the lady who has decided to cut out one hidden fish every year. People have shown me different ways of using this fabric in more ways than I have imagined. This is why I really enjoy entrusting my work to others.”

Yuri loved making things as a child and always dreamt of becoming a product designer. As she prepared for college, she realized that her interests lay in products with textural qualities, which led her to major in textile design at Tama Art University. Through an exchange program during graduate school, she studied in Finland where she encountered Jacquard weaving. The unforgettable experiences during her travels to Lapland, the northernmost region of Finland—the Finnish saunas, reindeer sledding, and polar nights—are vividly rendered in her current designs.

Textiles are products used in everyday life but because of their familiarity they often become “secondary” objects. Yuri says with certainty, “Folding, stretching, hanging…I can’t think of any other medium that transforms in so many ways through our interaction.”

Yuri continues to explore the many expressions of fabric by constantly moving her hands and experimenting with creases, translucency and silhouettes. For example, she noticed that hanging a square cloth from its corner created a triangular pyramid; this is how she arrived at FLOWERS, a handkerchief that resembles a bouquet when it is hung. Her BLOOM blankets were inspired from the interesting patterns she saw on a blanket casually thrown on a sofa. The two-sided design consisting of flower patterns on the front and stem and leaf patterns on the back can be enjoyed in various combinations depending on where and how they are placed.

BLOOM. Photo by Kohsuke Higuchi


Currently, Yuri uses an old classroom in a former school as her studio. On a typical day, she will sit amidst piles of fabric, and devote herself to continual trial and error. When she develops new techniques, she goes to the weaving factory and operates the software herself to create her desired patterns. She’s a designer much sought after, with requests for collaboration coming in from all over the world, but she says her motivation hasn’t changed much since her days as a novice designer when her goal was for people to use her textiles.

Yuri’s current plans are to install a Jacquard loom in her own studio and to hold a solo exhibition at the Netherlands Textile Museum someday. For a person who says, “I’m always conscious of working with a positive theme and mindset,” the dreams she sees beyond her textiles shouldn’t be far out of reach. 


Instagram @himuroyuri