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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with Japanese embroidery artist Kaoru Hirota of HIPOTA

A look at the adorable, miniature creations of embroidery artist Kaoru Hirota, the needle behind the brand HIPOTA

Written by Jessica Cook

Lobster by Hipota

It wasn’t that long ago that I watched The Secret World of Arrietty (2010), the Japanese, Studio Ghibli refresh of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, and looking at Hipota‘s petite, crafted edibles and teenie-tiny animals, I can’t help but be reminded of the film. These artworks are so real, and so little that they have a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids element to them.

Pineapple by Hipota Banana by Hipota

33 year old Japanese craft artist Kaoru Hirota makes intricate embroidery pieces under the name Hipota. Having stumbled across her creations on the web, I was completely captivated with the detail and lifelike feel of her embroidery, especially the bite-size fruit and vegetables, which bear a strong resemblance to the real thing. With some pieces doubling as purses and brooches, these are the ultimate twee fashion accessory and the pinnacle of hand-made craft items. Dinner-table yummies, including peppers that bear beads instead of seeds, make my eyes water, not with hunger, but with fascination. Alice in Wonderland style pansies and blood-red lobster are all part of the foray into a thread-composed natural world that you encounter when you look at Hipota’s unique work. The detail of the pieces is striking and they have a cartoon-esque quality which gives them an extra pizzazz. Kaoru has a real talent for bringing thread to life and each of her pieces has its own personality.

Hipota Illustration by Jo Cheung Hipota by Freddy Thorn
Kaoru Hirota illustrations by Jo Cheung (top) and Freddy Thorn (bottom)

Initially these pieces look like crochet and the dexterity of Kaoru‘s fingers and the imagination of these works, really give her crafts their own stamp. The beauty is in the meticulousness of these small and lovable creations. Hipota‘s works range from tiny, delicate flowers to adorable little toadstools and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next! With swans donning regal, fingernail sized crowns and character-full monkeys, these are the equivalent of soft toys for adults. More importantly, many of then are fun pieces that could give a real hand-made addition to any ensemble, or make a statement home-ware piece.

Avocado by Hipota
Brocolli by Hipota Hipota's Peas by May van Millingen
Hipota's Peppers by May van Millingen
Illustrations of Hipota‘s peas and peppers by May Van Millingen

Hipota‘s work is more than just embroidery, it’s like crawling into a craft created world where everything is carved from thread. Avocados, frogs, zebras, her range is startling and the pieces themselves are captivating. The only real pitfall of writing this piece, is that I’m dangling an (embroidery) carrot in front of you that’s out of reach as these little gems are only available from stores in Japan.

Tiger Purse by Hipota Hipota by Levi Bunyan Shark Purse by Hipota Illustration of Hipota zebra purse by Levi Bunyan

Although Kaoru Hirota, the needle behind Hipota proved hard to get hold of, and there was a bit of a language barrier, it was worth the challenge to get a quick insight into her lovely, dwarf artworks.

How long have you been embroidering?
For seven years.

Why did you choose the name Hipota?
My name is Kaoru Hirota so I thought that I would use the brand name Hirota. I was learning Russian at the time, and in Russian, p expresses r. I thought this was really interesting. Therefore, I used the brand name of not Hirota but Hipota. The right pronunciation is actually “Hirota”. However, people often call me “Hipota”. Incidentally, in Russian Hipota is хи pota.

Monkey by Hipota
Guerilla by Hipota

How do you choose the subject of a new project?
I like to use embroidery to express well-known forms, for example: animals, vegetables, and the often seen thing.

Do you use any other crafts to make pieces?
I only embroider, I can’t knit!

Leeks by Hipota
Onion by Hipota
Hipota Pea Brooches by Sam Parr Hipota pea brooches by Sam Parr

A lot of your work is fruit, vegetables, animals and flowers, is there a reason you focus on nature?
As in nature, results differ, so I can’t make the same thing twice. For example, if two strawberries are made, both strawberries would be completely different. I think that we can say the same thing about vegetables and animals!

What are your plans for the future?
I will continue only with embroidery from now on.

Hipota by Jo Cheung
Strawberry by Hipota
Hipota by Suky Goodfellow Illustration of Hipota strawberry by Jo Cheung and illustration of Hipota toadstools by Suky Goodfellow

How do you make the pieces so small? In such detail?
I observe things intently and I strive to express a colour and a form as it is. It’s mainly through trial and error that I learnt to do it. If you look at the work I did seven years ago you would be surprised!

What needle do you use?
It is a very ordinary needle. It is a thing called “nuibari” in Japanese.

Where can people buy your products?
I don’t have a webshop but you can buy my work in some stores in Japan. At Bazar et Garde-Manger and Tote.

Sea creatures by Claire Kearns
Illustration of Hipota‘s sea creatures by Claire Kearns

When I was little my grandmother would knit cuddly toys for me. These inanimate friends were different to my other soft companions, not because they were knitted, but because they had been made with love. Looking at Hipota‘s creations makes me feel a genuine sense of wonder at the power of human creativity that I thought was all but lost with childhood. Not just that, but I feel she really manages to put a part of herself into her art, especially as she mentions that each piece is unique. Just like the lovely, loyal cuddlies my grandma knitted for me as a kid, these pieces have stolen my heart, and hopefully, yours too.

Crab by Hipota
Seahorse by Hipota
Fish by Hipota

All photography courtesy of Kaoru Hirota

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