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Meet Kumi Oda: The designer exploring our relationship with silkworm

a film about silkworms

Circle of Silk film explores the relationship between silkworms and humans

The Future Creator Award is part of WGSN and ARTS THREAD‘s strategy to celebrate one creative future thinker in each of the six cities that form part of WGSN’s Futures Summit schedule for 2017. Each contest is open to emerging talent from the region of the summit, and the six winners will represent the finest emerging talent from around the world.

We caught up with artist and designer Kumi Oda to talk about winning the Hong Kong city award. Here she explains how she created her award winning film “Circle of Silk”. The film is about pure silk (made from the larva of the domesticated silk moth, Bombay Moi) that is used in the fashion and retail industry across the globe.

WGSN: Where did you get the inspiration for the “Circle of Silk” piece? 

Kumi Oda: When I was a child, I was always fascinated with insects. I raised beetles, grasshoppers and butterflies, etc. at home. As I became older, my interests shifted to more creative activities and I completely forgot about my passion for insects.

Currently, as a designer, I enjoy working with natural materials; wood, stone, wool and especially silk. I knew silk was made by insects but I had never seen the insects actually produce silk, before I started the project. Then came my curiosity  about the historical and cultural value of insects for the Japanese. All these facts inspired me to raise silkworms.

The outcome, “Circle of Silk”,  is a perfect combination of the passion of my childhood and my background as a Japanese person plus the skills I have obtained through my design education in the Netherlands.

WGSN: Why silkworms?

Kumi Oda: The silkworm powers a multi billion dollar industry as the world’s primary producer of ‘pure silk’. As a result of millennia of selective breeding, the domesticated moth, in contrast to the wild one, has changed colour from dark brown to albino white. They lack any fear of potential predators, cannot fly, needs human assistance in finding a mate, and has increased cocoon size and growth rate. These changes have made domestic silk moths entirely dependent upon humans for survival. I used this project to explore the relationship between humans and animals. As humans we consider animals as either harmful or beneficial; is there another way to relate to them? This project, aims to make us think about our relationship with other living beings.

WGSN: How long did you work on the project?

Kumi Oda: I spent 8 months on the project. However, it’s ongoing project. I’m still raising silkworms, making films and creating new objects with the silk I produced.

WGSN: What does design mean to you?

Kumi Oda: My interest is to use design as a tool to present nature and culture in a different context and to invite people to have more interest in the themes. Also to showcase a “real” experience, versus the digital experience which is more common nowadays.My interest is to use design as a tool to present nature and culture in a different context and to invite people to have more interest in the themes. Also to showcase a “real” experience, versus the digital experience which is more common nowadays.

 

Check out the film below, and explore Kumi Oda’s work here.

 

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