A lion. A seal. A small bird. A blossoming flower and even a crown. There seems no limit to the miracles that Sapporo-based Baku Maeda can create with ribbons. The designer’s art project Ribbonesia turns fabric into sculpture, with exquisite results. PingMag asks him about his bequiling work.
First of all, how did you start Ribbonesia?
I was experimenting with making work like this by trial and error from around 2008. There were several people who praised how original it looked so then I started doing it properly in 2010.
Up to then I had been mainly working on flat artworks as an artist and illustrator, but I got interested in more sculptural forms. Richly colored, soft ribbon that could make motifs of chopsticks and pens was then ideal for the form.
Turning flat lines into ribbons, what a great idea! This approach is really interesting, making something three-dimensional while leaving in the lines. We’ve heard, though, that Ribbonesia is not only you but there’s a whole team working on it. What is the creative process like? Do you divide up the roles between the team?
I myself make all the Ribbonesia artworks. Ribbonesia’s creative business strategies, including overseas, are handled mainly by creative director Toru Yoshikawa, and Ryo Ueda is the art director for the packging, printing and web design. All the project, conceptualizing and branding progresses through team discussions.
When we first heard you were making animals and flowers out of ribbons we thought it was a really cute idea. However, when we actually looked at Ribbonesia artworks, they are not so much “cute”, more cool and classy. Are you aware of this?
That’s because I too feel that motifs of animals and insects are also “cool” and “classy”, rather than “cute”. From my childhood, I was drawn to the complex but certain figurative beauty that living creatures and plants have. In this way, it’s an interest seen through very “male” eyes.
Talking of “male eyes”, are you particular about the material of the ribbon itself?
There’s a big connection between gravity and shape in Ribbonesia. If it’s too soft it will be crushed by it’s own weight. Too hard and you can make natural curves. After much trial and errror, now we use three to four types of ribbon. Within these there is also regular ribbon that has been specially treated to give it an ideal sturdiness or touch.
Gravity, of course! This kind of “male” particulariness about materials is also perhaps somewhat geeky too. Also, as well as making artworks you are creating accessories like brooches. Right now how many types of animals are there?
There are a total of eight types in the accessories line. And with the different colors, there are twenty-seven versions. We also take requests from individual customers for semi-order-made items, such as for weddings.
It looks like a lot of fun choosing your colors. What’s the most memorable item you’ve made so far?
A white stag I made as a prototype. I made the whole body to mostly real proportions. This is also made only of ribbon and stands up by itself. I made it to challenge myself how far I can go with ribbon, and it was the most difficult artwork I’ve made. I want to make more sculptural artworks like this.
What can you tell us about your future plans? And is there anything you want to make right now?
Originally I made Ribbonesia as a brand to sell to overseas, and my first client, exhibition and award were all overseas. This year I want to do more and more overseas work. A decorative hat for Queen Elizabeth perhaps! (laughs) I’m interested in how lifestyle culture is accepted in different places. And since it doesn’t matter if numbers are limited, I want to make really dense work. I’d also like to try collaborating with different media and other artists. I want to see a chemical reaction that will surprise even myself.
Well, you’ve already got plenty of attention from overseas but we reckon there’s more to come! Thank you, Ribbonesia!
Learn more about Ribbonesia on its recently relaunched website (web design: Fumiaki Hamagami; photography: Kei Furuse). There is also an . And you can keep up to date with the latest offerings from Ribbonesia via their social media channels: