Terumi Saito



Terumi Saito

About The Artist

Terumi Saito •
Fiber and Textiles - Homegoods • CUSTOM COMMISSIONS

Terumi Saito (b. 1993, Japan, lives and works in New York, NY) is a multidisciplinary artist working in fiber art and sculpture and is known for her backstrap weaving sculptures that utilize iconic jute ropes. Backstrap weaving, one of the earliest weaving techniques, has a rich history in Asia and Central and South America. Japan's history of Backstrap weaving dates to the Yayoi period (c. 300 BCE to 300 CE). Her unique approach combines traditional and ancient backstrap weaving techniques, the use of natural dyes and fibers, and a meticulous, labor-intensive weaving process. Saito's artistic endeavors are centered on a dual mission: preserving endangered traditional techniques and shedding new light on them through a contemporary lens. The labor-intensive and time-consuming process becomes the crucible for her ideas and artistic joy, resulting in a powerful body of work that represents a unique convergence of traditional techniques and contemporary artistic expression.



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Q&A with the Artist

Tell us how your work is made.

I practice backstrap weaving, one of the earliest weaving techniques, which has a rich history in Asia and Central and South America. Japan's history of Backstrap weaving dates to the Yayoi period (circa 300 BCE to 300 CE), featuring renowned existing examples like Ainu textiles. Backstrap weaving uses a simple loom made of thread and rods but involves complex operations. Unlike advanced looms, it does not have wooden frameworks and metal heddles. Warp threads are manipulated with string heddles, attached individually each time. Tension is maintained by anchoring threads to the weaver's waist and a post or foot, requiring full-body weaving engagement. In the past, I have completed artist residencies and research projects in Peru, Guatemala, Japan, and the United States.


What makes you passionate about the medium you work with?

I embark on a project that not only seeks to preserve endangered traditional and ancient techniques but also reimagines them from a contemporary perspective. By merging age-old traditions with elements of contemporary craft art, my work challenges preconceived notions surrounding fiber arts, such as historically relegated as women's work, hobbies, or souvenirs. I am continuing to develop my experimentation of creating three-dimensional textile sculptures and research on the emergence of fiber as a material from the world of craft to the world of art in the 1960s and 1970s in American art and craft. I am passionate about exploring these subjects, as I believe these artworks have the power to awaken curiosity among the public and infuse new life and narrative into traditional textile techniques like hand weaving and natural dyeing, which were once integral to the lives of ancient people.

What is something unique about you or your practice?

My artwork showcases my unconventional approach to backstrap weaving, enabling me to invent sculptures that defy conventional expectations of loom-based weaving. The flexibility and mechanism unique to backstrap weaving facilitated this transformation, opening new creative vistas. My art pieces reflect a unique and transformative approach to this labor-intensive and time-consuming weaving process.