WGM: Tell us about yourself and introduce your practice:
CO: Hello! My name is Chiaki O’Brien and I’m a SAORI weaver and teaching artist as well as Bengala Dye artist/teaching artist. I have a home studio called “Studio FUN.” I moved to Minnesota from Japan in 2004 and brought SAORI Weaving to share with people. I worked hard to spread SAORI seeds for many years and now I’ve seen SAORI flowers blooming here and there!
SAORI changed my life big time and it is NOT just weaving for me. It’s not about perfection. We start with, “We are not perfect.” We all have an inherent creative
sense since we are born until we die. These SAORI philosophies gave me confidence to challenge myself. It’s not about having any art background. It’s all about expressing myself and what a joy it is! I want to share the joy to people!
WGM: How do you identify? Are you a spinner? Weaver? Dyer? More?
CO: A weaver and a dyer—I would like to bring joy to the people so… Santa Claus?!
WGM: How did you come to this creative practice?
CO: It was in 1996 when I visited the SAORI head office in Japan to find out what SAORI was (I didn’t know it was a weaving school). A lady who was doing a group show told me that their work was “one-of-a-kind” and one cannot find exactly the same thing anywhere in the whole world. What she said stayed in my head and encouraged me to start learning about SAORI.
WGM: Who have you learned from?
CO: Misao Jo the SAORI Founder in Japan. We lost her in 2018. She was 104 years old. I was fortunate to work with and assist with her for a few years in Japan.
WGM: Where are you located and what will we find in your space? What do
you cherish about this space?
CO: I’m located in West Bloomington. You’ll see tons of colors (yarn) on the wall. There are many to choose from! I used to live in Chaska, and it was far for many people to come. Now, more people come to this new location. My drive time to teach also shortened!
WGM: Tell us about what you’ve been working on:
CO: I’ve been working on Bengala Dyed custom made masks, making small SAORI knitting bag pins and SAORI zippered pouches. Last week I finished weaving two curtains for out family room and I’m planing to dye them with Bengala dye this week. Additionally I volunteered at a community table which a church set up that is a block away from the George Floyd’s Memorial. I distributed water, snacks, household items to those in needs and I noticed that more people asked for masks than water, so as I have many t-shirts, I decided to make 100% T-shirt masks and donate them at the table. I actually went to drop off about 15 of them yesterday and I’m planning to keep making them
WGM: What loom do you have warped right now?
CO: SAORI loom model CH60, and it has a narrow warp that is light yellow and cotton.
WGM: How do you use your space?
CO: When people come to weave, I set up the number of looms needed. When nobody comes, I sometimes bring a table out to work on projects like dyeing or sewing.
WGM: Do you rearrange?
CO: My studio is a dedicated space. Of course, right now, because of the pandemic nobody comes to the studio but I do online lessons. That means I’m occupying my studio all by myself. I’m looking forward to the positive presence when people start coming again. I look forward to preparing and setting up the looms for them.