Written by Kumiko Toya
Nobuko Naito, a popular creator of Chirimen crafts, lives in a quaint traditional-Japanese style home in Himeji, Hyogo. The annex to the main building is her spacious atelier which Naito fills with Chirimen art of dolls, animals, flowers, ornaments and decorations.
Her home and the entrance to the atelier
What is Chirimen?
Her art is known for its charming designs that look full of life and make your heart warm. She explains, "I love cute things. And I enjoy making those around me smile. That’s why I’m a stickler for creating cute things that provide happiness to those around me."
When something inspires her, she takes time to study the item thoroughly before she starts cutting fabric to create the Chirimen art. "Designing the parts that you cannot see is the most difficult, such as inside of a flower," she says. "So I try to study things daily. Because paying attention to parts that are hidden will add delicacy and subtle sophistication to your pieces."
Before retiring recently, Nobuko Naito had been a popular teacher of Chirimen craft. She had her own love of learning and inspired students with her passion for the art of Chirimen. Her class was always packed with students who were attracted by the art and the amicable character of her.
Some former students told us that they went to class just to talk with Mrs. Naito, not getting any work done in class! (Their defense is that they would make the Chirimen project at home later.)
Nobuko Naito at her atelier
She designs fabric to make her Chirimen arts
Naito's commitment to fabric is strong. She purchases old silk kimonos from brokers to use the fabric. She also works with silk-dye craftsmen to have them create the fabric of specific colors and textures.
Silk fabric designed by Naito
Old silk kimonos
We are sharing some of her Chirimen arts from her atelier.
A girl in red kimono
Carp shaped drawstring bags
Babies in a baby carriage
A tiger and a bunny
A Komainu (guardian dog) and a little boy on its back.
Naito once had a chance to look at a Dreamcatcher created by a Native American and got inspired. Her design was highly regarded and the dreamcatcher is now included in her instruction books.
Children playing with a ball
A girl and a boy of Shichi-Go-San (a day for three- and seven-year-old girls and five-year-old boys to celebrate the growth and well-being.)
Tai (sea bream) is associated with the Japanese word medetai, which means “celebratory.”
Decorations on a shelf in the entryway to her atelier
(Hinamatsuri, or Doll Festival, is celebrated on March 3 to celebrate girls' happiness, growth, and good health.)
Cat Hinamatsuri dolls
In her 50 year career as Chirimen creator, Nobuko Naito has worked to recover traditional techniques and designs while also proactively seeking to create pieces that are more rooted in modern culture. Along with holding many exhibitions in Japan, the exhibitions she had held in the United Kingdom have also proven to be successful. She has also had numerous TV appearances and writing credits to her name, and also held the "Nobuko Naito Chirimen Classroom" across Japan.
Learn Chirimen with Nobuko Naito!