A guest posting by Jill Heppenheimer
Hiroshi Saito is not just a talented textile artist, but a delightful and engaging friend, colleague and seeker. We had occasion to host a trunk show with Hiroshi-san in late September, 2010. We first invited him to come to Santa Fe about 3 or 4 years ago, and found him a bit reluctant. I know, now, that that was in part because a) he is in demand from other galleries, he does everything himself (along with his wife), and, b) he needed to know that this would be a financially beneficial experience. There is a “c).” Hiroshi Saito must have several Americans visit his studio, through the good introduction of Steve Beimel and Nancy Craft/Esprit Travel, and probably everyone is charmed and moved by Hiroshi-san’s commitment to his art; so he has to be certain that this is a good match in all kinds of ways. After a few delays due to economic uncertainty, my gallery, Santa Fe Weaving Gallery, was able to arrange for a one-person exhibit and sale of Hiroshi Saito’s work this Fall.
The colors, abstract pattern and aesthetically-beautiful garabou cotton and wool muslin transformed the gallery. Swaths of kimono rolls and painted scrolls draped across the ceiling of our tiny space, hand-painted “Nozomi” shirts of cotton and wool graced the walls and racks, while scarves and shawls enriched the visual landscape of 300 square feet. Our gallery is a little jewel box near the center of Santa Fe, and has been in existence for nearly 35 years. With each passing year, we get further from our roots of “American Craft”, but evolve more deeply into exploration of textiles mastery by artisans from all over the world. Filling our gallery with Hiroshi’s energy was a gift to us and to our collectors.
In addition to featuring his 30+ pieces in our gallery, we were able to showcase them on our website: www.santafeweavinggallery.com. We had several clients who invested in multiple pieces, moved both by the coloration and artistic voice of the work, but also by the direct connection that Hiroshi’s warmth allows. We had one client who Hiroshi had actually met in 1979 when he was in residence, creating large textile banners for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York! They re-connected in our gallery 31 years later!
Hiroshi Saito came to textiles after college, which is a different path than that of so many of the craft artisans who we have met in our travels to Japan; most have come to their art career through family tradition. Hiroshi’s career was more choice than lineage, and his commitment to reviving the industry of wool muslin in Japan is another foray that brings authenticity and quality to his enduring work.
Spending time in Santa Fe, Hiroshi was able to explore the many galleries and shops that populate the town, and to venture out to Abiqui with fellow artist Gail Rieke who lives in Santa Fe, to see the land and the inspiration of Hiroshi’s muse, Georgia O’Keeffe. He found Masa, the owner of a Santa Fe sushi restaurant, who catered our dinner – “Salads, Sushi and Sake”, where we were able to introduce many friends in a casual setting.
A new resident of Santa Fe, Shiiko Alexander, provided translation for Hiroshi-san, as he gave a prepared talk to about 20 of our clients and textile aficionados on Sunday, Sept 26th.
The upshot of this opportunity to have Hiroshi Saito to Santa Fe: we sold out of nearly all 30 pieces, we took orders for more, we deepened our personal relationship, and expect that when he has an opening in his availability, we will have him back to Santa Fe for another trunk show, a hands-on workshop, and more touring of the Southwest. Subsequent to the visit to Santa Fe, Hiroshi entertained 10 of us and our clients in his Kyoto studio in mid-November.
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