28 October 2013

Artist Highlight: Miki Katagiri | Hatmaking as Sculpture

Today, I had the amazing pleasure to meet former junk-artist, current hat-sculpting activist artist, Miki Katagiri, in her Williamsburg studio. Miki and I met at the Eyebeam Gallery last week at the Carrie Mae Rose Computational Fashion opening. Miki was wearing this hat, and my friend, Helese, stopped her and complimented her on her amazing style, after which I joined the conversation. She went on to explain the significance of the hat; the internal battle of youth struggling between two thought paradigms: love or prestige, the "heart" or the "castle." With the style, uniqueness, craftsmanship, and activist message, I had to know more. After an email exchange, she invited me for tea and great conversation in her studio.

 (The story behind this piece? You need to break through 
the repetitive "record" of life to move forward).

Miki relocated to New York City from her hometown of Tokyo 24 years ago, and has been a practicing artist ever since. She began creating what she describes as "junk art," art reclaimed from the environment, sculptures of refuse, monuments crafted with the unique remains of all the environments that she collected from. Miki says that her mother, a visionary woman and artist who created everything from handbags made from discarded umbrellas to elegant pouches made from reclaimed obi belts, inspired much of her interest in reclaimed materials.

(A beautiful pouch made from a reclaimed obi belt, made by 
her mother who has inspired much of her interested in reclaimed art)

Miki participated in many art shows, including one group show called " Urban Jungle," where the entire collection was purchased by legendary 1980s/1990s boutique, Unique (You might remember this boutique from Isabel Toledo's memoir, Roots of Style). From her junk art days, when asked what type of art she created, Miki would respond, "It depends on the street."

Over the past ten years however, she has created hats as sculpture. While by day she may be a hat designer at Ralph Lauren and Patricia Underwood, or a hat instructor at Parsons at the New School for Design, by night she is creating powerful, prolific sculptures that speak narratives of environmentalism, social justice, and the complexities of the human spirit. What else should you have on the sacred crown of your head, other than a work of art that can speak your values for you?

With some freshly brewed black bean tea in hand, I had the opportunity to iPhonegraph some of Miki's dialogic works for art:

 (See the art hidden within?)

 (Not all of her pieces are explicitly political. For instance, this hat, adorned with suspended falling leaves, is simply and elegantly inspired by the season, Fall)

(Wear this hat, and you can take out small felt hearts from the top and give out love to everyone you pass along your merry way. Think loving thoughts and spread the love around, literally!)

(311: a reminder of the aftermath that continues to be experienced as a result of March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. To this day in October 2013, Japan and now Hawaii and California are faced with radioactive leaks that put many in danger. Our planet needs us. And this piece reminds us that caring for each other in the aftermath is as critical as during the event itself.)


(Even the vegan in me appreciated these. The first is made from reclaimed fox fur. However, instead of merely using the animal and not acknowledging the life lost, Miki created a hat inspired by the fox dreaming of being a bird in its second life. The second piece, created from reclaimed beaver fur, is inspired by a beaver dreaming of being a tree in its second life. What if ever fashion product created from animals did this? So brilliant).
(Deforestation and the lone animal searching for shelter. Enough said).

There are so many more brilliant pieces, such as the ones inspired by the process of oxygenation, created with live plants that convert carbon dioxide into oxygen right on your head. I invite you and encourage you to look through her website and blog. The works truly do speak for themselves.
If you are in New York on Monday November 4th, Wednesday November 6th, and Monday November 11th, you will have the amazing opportunity to attend a workshop with Miki firsthand at noneother than the Ggrippo Art + Design Gallery in Williamsburg.

Let's create some powerful, world-changing, hat sculptures together,


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