visit artist file 014Sawako Ura (Designer)

Depicting the beauty of nature and vistas in people’s memories

The Finland-based designer, Sawako Ura, launched her own textile label “kuiskaus” with Kokka. Kuiskaus means a whisper in Finnish. The whisper of nature is literally represented in the form of textile. Here she talks what is behind her design work.

va14_1 (KF): You moved to Finland upon finishing Musashino Art University in 2008. How did you wind up with that?

Musashino Art University was a place to pursue the method of self-expression from an aesthetic perspective. With my desire to continue to acquire advanced and more practical skills, I decided to attend the prestigious graduate school in Finland. I became enamored of Helsinki with its coziness, nice people, and the nature nearby. Since then and even after earning a master’s degree, Helsinki has been my base for living and creative activities.


(KF) Please share with us when and how you got interested in the textile design?

Though I don’t remember exactly what triggered my interest in textile design, I believe it was during my late sophomore year in college when it’s time to choose a major. Drawing was what I liked to do most. While I was wondering how I could make my favorite thing into a career, such as creating items to be used in people’s daily life, I came up with textile design. Furthermore, Marimekko opened its concept store in Omotesando area, Tokyo, around that time. The store and its products spurred my curiosity about textile design, too. Maybe that’s where it all began.

(KF) Let us ask you about your style in drawing. You use the so-called scratchboard technique to design for textile, which is the art by scratching through a thick layer of crayon with a toothpick. Since when have you employed this technique?

Since I made drawings for my graduation project in my senior year at college.

(KF)Could you please give us a few details about your graduation project?

I began work on it under the abstract theme, “Beauty of accumulation, A moment of forever”. Back in those days, I had primarily expressed my inner self through my artwork. While keeping sketching and drawing in various ways for the themed project, I incidentally recalled the crayon etching I had done when I was a kinder: I had filled a paper with a variety of colored crayons, colored over the whole paper using black crayon, and then scratched into the black crayon with a toothpick to reveal the underneath colors to depict fireworks in the night sky. Although crayon etchings were from my kindergarten memories, I realized that it would be perfect for what I wanted to represent through my creations. I have continued using this technique today.


(KF)What attracts you to this technique?

First, it is possible to represent something like the flux of time or the warmth of hands through intricate colorations, lines and spots where I scrape away. I am also thrilled to see at the last moment how it turns out.

(KF)We hear that you sat at the feet of the famous textile designer Mr. Fujio Ishimoto for your MFA project in Aalto University. What did his mentorship inspire you for your current creative activities?

Mr. Ishimoto is the artist whom I really respect. It was a dreamlike occasion for me to sit at his feet. All I have learned from him has impacted everything related to my creative activities. He gave me a lot of methods such as design structure, coloration, and workflow towards completion. One of the things, I most appreciated about Mr. Ishimoto, is that he liked my work and introduced me to Marimekko.

(KF)With “kuiskaus”, you depict the nature of Finland such as the fallen snow, a lake in the summertime, or the bud flush in the early spring. What fascinates you about the nature in Finland?

The nature in Finland is magnificent. It is not showy or dynamic, but deserves to be referred to as peaceful and quiet. The nature in Finland can be a severe threat occasionally, yet I like the beauty and grandeur of nature.


(KF)How was your experience to transform your artwork into textile?

I had trouble to show desired colors on fabric. After a process of trial and error, the colors finally could be presented just about same as the ones of my original drawing. Without the help of Kokka and its textile printing company, I could not have overcome the challenge.

(KF)The unique materials like salt shrunk lawn or bark cloth are used for the prints of “kuiskaus”. Each has a rough or nubby surface. How come those unique materials were adopted for your textiles?

I thought those materials would be perfect to represent my original drawings by scratchboard technique. I had never used the salt shrunk lawn before, but I enjoyed maximizing its characteristic to present uneven surface and color overlay as shown in my artwork.


(KF) The new design “MAATILA (Farm)” was released in January 2017, which is the second series of “kuiskaus” brand. This one looks more pictorial than “LUMITUISKU (Snow Bank)” and “KUPLAN KUKKA (Bobble Flower)” in its first series. Tell us your idea how to use this fabric.

MAATILA is the one I depicted the image of pattern-like landscape from a bird’s-eye view. The geometric pattern will allow you to enjoy every bit of this fabric. With small motif, this is perfect for making tiny items such as a pouch.

(KF)Since it was launched, sewing lovers have enjoyed making various items with “kuiskaus”. Is there any sewn item that particularly impressed you?

It is a dress after all. I like the airy impression when the dress is swayed in the breeze or it is slightly sheer.


(KF)Please share with us about your daily life.

I have a young child, and my life is centered on my little one. Like every mother, I take him out for walks, play together in a park, bath him, feed him, put him to sleep… it’s a restless life. Since my child has not reached preschooler age yet, I spend most of the day taking care of him while I work after he’s in bed. Well, I often fall asleep with him, though.

(KF)Where do you work?

I have a workspace in the house.

(KF)What is the most important to you, for both your work and family life?

I always keep it in my mind to cherish a simple pleasure and a small happiness.

(KF) You held your first solo exhibition “Sawako Ura Exhibition Muistin Maisema” in Tokyo in 2014. Will you have an exhibition again in the near future in Japan or overseas?

 I will have a solo exhibition starting June 17, 2017 at the gallery MUSTAKIVI ( in Matsuyama City, Japan.

(The below is the picture of the solo exhibition in 2014)

(KF)That is the gallery of Mr. Fujio Ishimoto, isn’t it? What kind of artwork will you display there?

I will mainly exhibit the crayon etchings including the original drawings for “kuiskaus”. The venue is so beautiful. I would be happy if you could come to the exhibition.

(KF)Please let us know what you want to do or try from here on.

I would like to focus my creative activities in this year.

(KF)Would you give a message to this website readers?

I would appreciate your continued support to “kuiskaus”. Thank you.