Continuing the freshly-minted tradition of virtual sharing in these times of plague, the Kingdom Office of Arts & Sciences once again reached out to our fabulous Arts & Sciences Championship artisans to share their work with the populace at large on a more personal level. The virtual Kingdom Championship was also a juried competition, and included a week’s worth of face to face judging – with judges especially selected for their knowledge and background – as well as an online populace “meet and greet the artisans.” Master Hrólfr and I, your Kingdom Arts & Sciences officers, enjoy finding new ways to inspire and motivate our artisans in these trying times and we are happy to see the Championship ran so smoothly!

Today’s interview is with Hara Kikumatsu, who entered the Kingdom of Æthelmearc Arts and Sciences Championship with a Kikko Braid, made on the Marudai

Kikko braid
the Kikko braid, made by artisan Hara Kikumatsu

Could you tell me a little about you, your persona?
My persona is Japanese artisan from late period Azuichi-Momoyama (1573-1603). I am in the household of samurai class.

What inspired you to make your entry?
The Kikko braid book by Claudia Wollney inspired me. I braid on the marudai almost exclusively and having a book with that particular kikko pattern adapted for the marudai with 85 different patterns was too tempting. The kikko pattern is very old in Japan dating back at least to Heian period as a braid. The pattern is symbolic of the tortoiseshell pattern and symbolizes the long life of a tortoise. I wanted to try the pattern and this was my first 32 strand braid. I have braided a couple 24 strand braids, but mostly stick to 16 strand

double-sided kikko from Heian period
Cord with kikko pattern from the Heian Period (image from http://www.englisch.kumihimo.de/html/history.html)

Did the entry throw up any unexpected issues?
The pattern is very simple set of 8 moves, but with 32 strands on the marudai, it was very easy to set a strand down in the wrong place or to pick up the wrong next strand or forget exactly where I was. So I had to develop some techniques to keep the cords organized, and make up a little chant to keep track of where I was. I also had to make sure I never braided when I was tired, and not braid for too long at any sitting.

Fully loaded marudai with tama and weight bag
A fully loaded marudai with tama and weight bag (image from http://www.englisch.kumihimo.de/html/history.html)

What did you think of the virtual face to face judging concept?
I think the way the virtual judging was done in the sessions worked well. It was awkward somewhat when there were judges missing, but I was delighted at how the organizers were able to pull together judging staff and make it work. I think there is a lot of good in something that is more accessible and doesn’t require the travel.

What motivated you to enter the Kingdom Championship?
I participated because the local baroness urged local artisans to enter. I had been working on the braid and figured if it turned out well, I could enter. I don’t like competitions and judging feedback discourages me.

Hara Kikumatsu posted about her entry on her personal blog as well.

Are you interested in reading more about the entry after this appetizing interview? You can! All entries including documentation and images are available at the Kingdom Office of Arts and Sciences website.