Aesthetics of Translation

An artful international collaboration transforms the work of ceramicist Makoto Kagoshima into folial rugs and fabrics
A platter with fabric tufts resembling flowers on vines.
Above Image: The exuberant hues of a Kagoshima ceramic plate matched with Christopher Farr color poms during the design process. Photo by Sean Hazen.

By Maile Pingel

“Color, line, it all worked harmoniously in an effortless—or seemingly effortless—way,” says Los Angeles–based rug maker Christopher Farr of Japanese ceramic artist Makoto Kagoshima’s work, which he first discovered at a friend’s home. Kagoshima, who came to ceramics as a second career, creates earthenware pieces (primarily plates and platters) that he etches with dental tools—an unconventional technique—and glazes with a wax-resist process called rounuki. His imagery, frequently flowers and birds and other charming fauna, is pulled directly from the garden at his home in Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu in southwest Japan.

Closeup of painted platter.

An earthenware platter enlivened with Kagoshima’s whimsical, vibrant blooms.

Farr immediately sensed that the bold designs would translate well to other media, and a meeting with the artist cemented his fondness for Kagoshima’s style. “Makoto has a boyish charisma,” says Farr. “Watching him work is a bit like watching Keith Haring. His line is very pure and super-refined.” The British-born designer also responded to the English Arts and Crafts influence that permeates Kagoshima’s practice. “His work crosses the bridge between East and West.”

Farr reached out to Ritsuko Yagi, founder of the boutique gallery Chariots on Fire in Venice, California, and Kagoshima’s exclusive U.S. representative. “It was a really lovely surprise, meeting Chris in Los Angeles,” says Yagi. “When I was at art school at Central Saint Martins in London, I used to walk by his gallery in Notting Hill and admire the rugs.” Farr, Yagi, and Kagoshima met at Farr’s showroom in Los Angeles, and the trio explored how to translate the ceramics successfully into fiber, diving into scale, color, texture, and material. “We discussed silks, hemp, etc., and we all said, ‘This has to be wool,’ because of how it translated the nuanced detail of the ceramics,” notes Yagi. “It wasn’t too glossy or too matte—it was the perfect material.”

Three images: On left, two men and a woman posed for camera. On right, the design team at work picking fabrics and elements. Inset image is a closeup of a graphic pattern.

Left to right: Christopher Farr, Kagoshima, and Ritsuko Yagi at Chariots on Fire gallery in Los Angeles; Rug No. 7; the trio in the process of translating color from ceramic to fiber. Photos by Sean Hazen.

“I was very excited by this project—but challenged, too,” Farr recalls. The pandemic had broken out, and there were also political complications. The rugs would be made in Aqcha, Afghanistan, a historic center for weaving. “Afghanistan is renowned for its carpet-making skills and woven idiosyncratic nuances, a result of the high lanolin content of the Ghazni wool and the slow hand-dying and spinning of the wool,” notes Farr. “These details add a distinctive movement of color, known as an abrash, that is sympathetic to Kagoshima’s vocabulary. It also produces a texture that’s similar to the rough quality of his ceramics.” But just as the collection was being finalized, the Taliban regained control of the country. “It is still possible to work with weavers there,” Farr says, noting the help of organizations like Turquoise Mountain, which works to provide humanitarian support and keep craft traditions alive in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Platter with floral motif.

Fast-forward four years and the collaboration had become a striking reality. Farr, Yagi, and Kagoshima felt they had successfully interpreted the “wild imagination” and “pure joy and happiness” of the artist’s work—as Yagi described it in the 2017 exhibition book Makoto Kagoshima Ceramics—into a new form.

Farr, Yagi, and Kagoshima felt they had successfully interpreted the “wild imagination” and “pure joy and happiness” of the artist’s work—as Yagi described it in the 2017 exhibition book Makoto Kagoshima Ceramics—into a new form.

Three images displaying different patterns of fabrics and rug.

In 2021, the hand-spun, hand-knotted wool rugs were released as a limited edition of nine one-off designs. Four are still available from the original collection, and Kagoshima has approved a handful of additional designs that may be considered for production. He and Farr are also open to commissions. And if one isn’t necessarily looking to adorn their floors, the artist’s whimsical images are just as well suited to walls. Augmenting the rug collection are textiles and wallpapers with the same enchanting spirit, produced in London by Christopher Farr Cloth, and available through De Sousa Hughes.

Fabrics available through De Sousa Hughes

Rugs available through Christopher Farr / De Sousa Hughes and Chariots on Fire

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