Hisae Abe

The Funk Files: Embroidery Frontiers

Every year, Hand & Lock organizes a competition for the prestigious Prize for Embroidery to promote the use of hand embroidery and to discover emerging embroidery talent. The 2020 brief, “The Poetics of Colour,” invited entrants to use colour as a fundamental component of the design process, employing inventive embroidery and textures that enhance and enrich or contradict and counter the colour choices.

Today we’ll meet the third-place winner in the Student Fashion Category, Abe Hisae.

Location: Japan
School: Royal School of Needlework  (graduated in 2020)
Instagram: @hisaeysuembroidery
RSN website

third-place winner, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery, Student Fashion category
Meet Hisae Abe, third-place winner, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery, Student Fashion category

The Competition

Describe your Hand & Lock entry and what motivated it:

I didn’t think that the Hand&Lock prize was something I could apply for because successful finalists’ works are extremely high level. I didn’t think that my embroidery skill was high enough to apply for it.

But in order to grow myself, it would be a good experience to enter the competition and challenge something at a higher level than mine. I can learn things alongside the entry procedure, such as organising mood boards, writing an artist statement, describing how I present my work and tell the story behind my piece.

Kimono by Hisae Abe, third-place winner, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery, Student Fashion category
Kimono back, Hisae Abe, third-place winner, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery, Student Fashion category
Kimono flower detail, by Hisae Abe, third-place winner, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery, Student Fashion category
Kimono flowers by Hisae Abe, third-place winner, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery, Student Fashion category

Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?

In my piece, I needed a lot of fabric, but due to lockdown, I was struggling to obtain the fabric. So I took apart vintage undergarments for the Kimono which I had, to get scraps of the fabric. Then I created some flowers with those scraps. For the belt, I needed quite a long, continuous piece of fabric which is about 4m. Luckily, I kept a roll of vintage linen fabric for an undergarment for the Kimono as I was planning to tailor an undergarment in the future. I had to be brave to use it for making an Obi instead of the undergarment. But I’m happy now that it makes up a part of my piece!

Kimono obi, Hisae Abe
Kimono obi, Hisae Abe
Kimono flower detail by Hisae Abe
Flower detail, Hisae Abe

Past

What made you want to study fashion and textiles in school?

I wanted to learn something that was creative and unique. It was not that fashion and textiles were my choice at the beginning. But if I started to learn something new, I wanted to be taught to a high standard and obtain the best education in the field. When I found the RSN, I thought this is the one and only place for my studies.

Imagine! You can learn hand embroidery, which is a tradition of the UK, with a magnificent view of the palace!

An award-winning embroidered kimono at Hampton Court Palace, Hisae Abe
An award-winning embroidered kimono at Hampton Court Palace, Hisae Abe

Present

My job in The Funk Files is to interview “pioneers on the embroidery frontier.” That’s you! What is the embroidery frontier, and what does it mean to be a pioneer here?

I never thought that I would be a pioneer. I’m still learning and trying different things to find my own embroidery style.

I think that people who are called pioneers take an innovative approach to understanding the traditional and historical background, and are not afraid to take risks.

Embroidered sandals by Hisae Abe, third-place winner, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery, Student Fashion category
Embroidered sandals, Hisae Abe
Kimono collar detail, Hisae Abe
Kimono collar detail, Hisae Abe

Future

What projects are on the horizon for you?

I’m currently working on my own project and endeavouring to create pieces with different styles based on one theme.   

Tambour embroidery by Hisae Abe
Tambour embroidery by Hisae Abe
mbroidery, spider detail, Hisae Abe
Tambour embroidery, spider detail, Hisae Abe
Wind God, Hisae Abe
Wind God, Hisae Abe
Thunder God, Hisae Abe
Thunder God, Hisae Abe

Tip

What one piece of advice would you offer someone who wants to create art?

Learn to be honest and get interested in anything and keep your eyes open to be creative. Inspiration and ideas are all around you.

Bonsai hat by Hisae Abe
Bonsai hat by Hisae Abe

Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)

A book you’ve enjoyed recently: Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami (not finished yet though…)

You must include something scented in your next piece. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it? I’ve thought about this topic before and got an idea.

I would use fragrant woods. I would chop fragrant woods and make a small sachet. The sachet would be petals of flowers like the flowers which I made for the Kimono which I entered for the Hand&Lock prize. You can put it on your garment or put it in a drawer. Some fragrant woods also act as an insect repellent and have a healing effect.

If you were not an artist, what would you be? Restorer. I’m into Kintsugi at the moment.

You are making lunch for the artist of your choice—and she/he/zie will love it. Who is the artist, and what are you making for lunch? William Morris / Udon Noodles

Do you save the best for last? No, I don’t. I don’t know what will happen in my life. I may not be able to enjoy it at the end.

Embroidered flower detail, Hisae Abe
Embroidered flower detail, Hisae Abe

A studio is remaking a movie, and they want you to design the costumes. What is the movie, and what is your favorite costume in it? Recently, I watched the film ‘Cruella’. I really loved the costumes in the film, especially the scene when Cruella appeared from a garbage truck in a dress made by joining tons of scraps of fabric. That scene was so sensational! 

You must create a garment or accessory for an animal. What is the animal, and what do you create? I’m a big fan of Cheburashka. (I assume that Cheburashka is an animal.) I would create an embroidered orange brooch for Cheburashka! An orange is a symbolic item for him as he was found in a crate of oranges.

You can shop for free at one store. What store do you choose? Sunbury Antiques Market

A celebrity wears something you’ve made to an awards show, and you receive fame, fortune, good health, fitness, and cake for life. Who is the celebrity and what does s/he wear? Henry VIII.  I often saw him in the palace when I studied at the RSN. He was always wearing a similar style of clothes, such as a cape, short pants and white stockings. So I would make a Hakama, which is a Kimono for men, with a goldwork embroidered crest for him. I’m sure Hakama would suit him.

What was the best gift you gave someone? I’m not sure…

Even if I thought it was the best gift for them, if they don’t think so then it’s not!

Hisae Abe in her embroidered kimono at Hampton Court Palace
Hisae Abe in her embroidered kimono at Hampton Court Palace

Thank you, Hisae!


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