Megumi Shauna Arai
Megumi Shauna Arai
— Can you tell us about your family, and the experience of growing up in a Japanese and Jewish household? Do you practice any family traditions or gestures in your everyday life?
We moved a lot, between countries, between cultures. We were not religious, so the Jewish upbringing is mostly cultural. I do love to make Jewish food with loved ones. There were not many Jewish people in Japan growing up; my dad actually did not know what Judaism was until he met my mom. I think if anything, growing up in a bicultural household ignited my continual interest in intersections.
— When do you think your love for textiles was ignited?
I had a spinning wheel as a kid. I loved the quiet, continual motion of feeding the roving into the wheel. It calmed me and helped me focus.
— You practice the traditional Japanese method of 'boro' in your work. In what other ways do Japanese crafts inspire your work?
I was very lucky to have parents who allowed me to explore creativity and making as a child. Neither are what people would call “artists”, but I believe most people indeed are. Both of them are creative and inquisitive individuals. My father draws, paints and plays the flamenco guitar, my mother writes and sings.
All of this is to say, art, craft, making, was not something far away or foreign growing up. My mother also is an East Asian scholar, specifically a cultural anthropologist specializing in Japan (important to note she is Jewish-American, my father is Japanese). My whole life she has been interested in Japanese craft and has written about the Mingei movement as well. We got to look at, live with and learn to appreciate Japanese pottery, textile, calligraphy. Calligraphy was more associated with my Japanese grandpa who studied old text and calligraphy styles after he retired.
— We love the way you repurpose and upcycle textiles, have you worked with any interesting pieces recently?
There is one large antique katazome fabric that I keep going back to and trying to incorporate in as many pieces as possible. I love katazome so much. Unfortunately, this specific fabric I just used the very last of!
I find this part very special as well, that once the fabric is gone it’s gone. Every found piece is one of a kind and there is only so much of it.
— I always think about all of the thoughts and emotions embedded into each piece, when something is made by hand over time. What kinds of things were you feeling and thinking about when you made your most recent works? Is it a focus on the piece and what you are making it for, or is it a focus on everything exterior to that?
There is the micro and the macro. The micro is the moments of each stitch, the physicality of the piece, all the small technical decisions that combine to make the larger whole. The macro is the emotionality, how does it feel, what emerges from all the small combinations and intersections?
— As someone who responds viscerally to textiles, how did you feel in the Anaak garments? Did they spur any new emotion or ways of moving for you?
The silk was so pleasant!