In our search for local Shokunins (Japanese for artisan) we discovered Loop of the Loom. The NYC based studio is quietly tucked away on east 87th St in Manhattan. As soon as we entered the space, we were greeted by beautifully colored tapestry hanging on the walls. They were full of texture and life.
Since 2005, Loop of the Loom has been creating awareness of the free-style “happy weaving” method called SAORI weaving, which embraces self-healing and discovering one’s creativity. SAORI weaving is a craft that started years ago in Osaka, Japan by its founder Misao Jo, who one day noticed a “flaw” in one of her tapestry's and decided to develop it into a form of empowerment and self-expression. We had the opportunity to speak directly to the founder of Loop of the Loom, Yukako Satone, about her own experience with SAORI weaving, the process of the craft and what Loop of the Loom offers its students.
Shokunin: Can you describe what makes the SAORI weaving method so special?
Yukako: The SAORI weaving method is fun. For example, in most clothing the selvedge is always hidden. In SAORI weaving, we show the selvedge because it's human made, so we don’t hide it, we show it! For some people, the selvedge is tight, for some people it’s loose. In the loose selvedge you can see the loops, and that’s ok. It gives it more character! That’s why SAORI has to do with accepting what makes you different. It’s about looking into yourself, and thinking: What do you like? What do you have to offer? And also respecting other people and their differences.
S: Why did you decide to learn SAORI weaving?
Y: I moved to NYC very young. Like many other people I was here during the events of 9/11. That made me feel a lot of trauma and depression. A month before that happened, I met Misao Jo when I was in Japan. She is the founder of SAORI weaving. I started to learn SAORI weaving and it helped me heal. Then I decided to teach SAORI weaving to others as a therapy and to help people feel happy.
S: You mentioned that some of your students have disabilities like autism and others use SAORI weaving as a therapeutic method. What other types of students come to Loop of the Loom?
Y: Many people come to the studio to become part of a community. Students are sometimes survivors of cancer or going through treatment of chemotherapy, or depression. Some are retired, others are single women who live around here, who’s husbands passed away or are divorced. But we get many types of people who want to come in to learn something new and make new friends through weaving.
S: What is the process for new students?
Y: First, students come in and choose the colors they want to use. They can start from scratch and choose their own colors from the material we have here on the wall or choose from a pre-bonded material. Then we teach the students how to use the loom and how to set up the warp on the loom.
S: Can you describe the types of classes you offer?
Y: Each class is about two hours long. In the beginners class the student has the chance to finish their work in one single session and their work is cut at the end of the session. If they sign up for the advanced classes, we can keep their work until they are finished. Advanced classes can be 4, 8 or 12 sessions and students can come back until they finish their project. We also have group sessions. Most groups are 6-8 people.
S: Is Loop of the Loom the only one who teaches SAORI weaving in the area?
Y: Yes we are the only registered SAORI weaving studio in the NYC area. I have had students in the past who have learned SAORI weaving and teach it in their communities. We keep in touch and work together on exhibitions. Also some artists in the area use the SAORI weaving method.
S: Do you partner with local groups?
Y: Yes we work with an institute in NJ for people with disabilities, children with autism, and people with mental disorders. They bought two looms from us and wanted to teach the SAORI method to their patients. They came to the studio to learn from us. We taught them how SAORI weaving is about being fun and open for their patients. They were inspired by the tapestry we have hanging here and by my students. Now the parents and staff help with weaving and sewing too. They show their projects in art shows and auctions.
Read more about the story behind Loop of the Loom.
Watch an interview with Yukao Satone on our Facebook page.