ARTIST INTERVIEW: Satoko Nakagawa of Hatori
Artist: Satoko Nakagawa
Satoko Nakagawa is a Brooklyn-based Japanese designer born in Tokyo, Japan. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York where she studied shoe making and accessories design. After 15 years of experience working with major fashion houses to small operation design studios, Nakagawa established Hatori in 2017, handcrafting timeless woven basket bags inspired by the lacing technique of ancient Samurai armor.
What would you say is the driving force behind your creative work?
I strive to create timeless designs that can outlast seasonal trends. I hope the accessories and jewelry I make are cherished and passed on from one generation to the next.
How do you find a balance between practicality and beauty in your creations?
I try not to sew the body of bags and accessories as much as possible. Lacing is often used for decoration, but it has a role of construction for our bags. I source the rayon flat braided lace that we use from small mills in Japan still producing them for armor and tea ceremony tools. The leather comes from one of the 22 tanneries operating in the Tuscan Leather District in Italy affiliated with the Genuine Italian vegetable-tanned leather consortium. Using the right materials that I am proud of is a key for my creations as well.
What are your most important artistic tools?
Hands and blades. I use all the kind of blades such as dies, skivers, scissors and cutters.
Do you have a favorite creation, artwork, or design of your own?
I would say Japanese confectionery. Making and eating beautiful seasonal, healthy and tasty sweets with friends is fulfilling. I also am into makings pickles with my husband Alex right now.
How do you define success in your art or craft, or alternately, what does failure mean to you?
Success for me was finding a way to translate historical and traditional craft and techniques into beautiful contemporary forms. When I see someone carrying my bags and really living with it and using it; this makes me happy. That’s success.
Failure for me is if I can’t find a way to make my company sustainable. I am constantly learning from the unexpected.
What criteria do you use to evaluate your own work?
I look back to see if things persist and carry themselves. If I still like the work I made a week ago, a month, or a year ago. I want things to endure.
As much as my inner voice is important I also listen to my husband Alex and my friends around me, taking their insights into consideration too.
I also learn from used bags. I learned how the bags are used and worn out and how to improve the design, which parts should be reinforced or changed.
What do you do, or where do you go to seek fresh ideas or renewed creative energy?
Luckily I don’t feel the need to seek out trendy new designs on a seasonal basis. I usually wait until I get energy to create something new. New ideas often come in my studio trying to figure out the shape or by mistake. I have to say going to Metropolitan Museum of Art continues to be a source of inspiration. It was there I found the initial inspirations for my bags while looking at Arms and Armors from the 12 and 13th centuries in Japan. It’s ironic that I had to travel all the way to New York to find something from my home.
Do you see your work as part of an artistic tradition? Where does your work depart from artistic tradition and move into new territory?
Yes. It is Kogei the art and craft. Functional Art. I enjoy combining the techniques of making samurai armor, wood crafts, and bamboo baskets with unique and contemporary designs to create handbags and accessories using new technologies and materials.
Do you think community is important to creativity? If so, how?
Big yes. Every 6 months I spend time with 8 to 14 designers during New York fashion week. We talk about everything; our lives, businesses, problems, productions issues, all kind of things while we show our work in our showroom. Having a good and trusted community where we can share knowledge and experience promotes positive energy. It’s going to be my second time being at EPCF in December. I already know that I have big support from the community there. Everybody has been so welcoming and inspiring.
Did you have any artists or creative people in your family? If so, how did they influence you?
Oh yes. My sister-in-law Jennifer Parry Dodge from Ermie, she brought me into the ECPC community. She will be in Japan soon studying Japanese indigo dye and shibori later this month. I admire her creations so much.
My family I married into have big understanding of art. They are painters, sculptors, writers, musicians, and designers. I’ve gained so much by seeing how they work in studio and from their works.
My mother Yoshiko was a writer and always encouraged me to do what I want to do. She passed away aged 56 when I was 27. That experience made me stronger and I believe she helped me to meet Alex so that I could find another wonderful family later in my life. My brother Akira gave me a reason to come to NY. He was studying commercial design at Parsons and I came with him.
Also, my grandfathers were both inspiring. Tokunosuke was a successful entrepreneur in post war Tokyo while my other grandfather, Tadashi, worked hard helping Japanese immigrants in South America after the war. Their stories are pretty amazing and made me want to do what I believe in.