In her attic studio, Emi Ito breaks the rules of textile production with her imaginative, hand-woven scarves and wraps.
Photographed by Yoon Byun
A native of Aichi Prefecture, Japan, Ito specializes in freestyle weaving, using richly colored Maine and Japanese wools to fashion scarves and wraps in nubby, wavy designs.
“I learned about color, texture, and the way a hairstyle, or something around the neck, can change your face when I worked as a commercial makeup artist in Japan and later in New York. About 10 years ago, I saw an ad for a Saori freestyle-weaving studio in Manhattan. It looked interesting — there were so many colors. I went, and I was hooked. Saori is more of a philosophy than a style. No one really teaches it — they show you how to manipulate the loom, of course, but the rest comes from you. There are no rules. The style is whatever you want it to be. I have six looms, all different sizes, in my studio, which is in the attic over both sides of the duplex my husband and I bought when we moved to Bath a few years ago. The smallest, a table loom, is good for sampling patterns. My big, eight-shaft floor loom is for traditional weaving. I’m studying it — I’d like to combine freestyle and traditional weaving. These days, I’m too busy to spin my own yarns, except for a very chunky yarn that I can’t find anywhere else. Right now, I’m making three scarves at once on one loom. They’ll have lots of texture and colors and curvy, irregular edges. People often tell me, ‘Make me something surprising.’ They want something one-of-a-kind, and because it’s just a scarf, they feel they can be a little wild.” — As told to Virginia M. Wright