Without further ado, I’d like to introduce to you the lovely Natsumi Sato, who recently started making Japanese woven slippers by hand from strips of recycled fabric, and who is today’s protagonist in BCN Handmade – Na. enjoy!
I don’t know about you, but I love wearing flip flops, and during the warm months in Barcelona, they are what I wear the most. So when some time ago Natsumi gave a pair of handmade slippers to my friend Andrew (of Openhouse), slippers she had made herself, I was intrigued and wanted to know more about her. So I asked if she would like to be a part of the BCN Handmade project, and to my delight she was more than happy to!
The handful of questions that make up the mini interview were sent off, and when I received the answers, I realised just what an interesting person I had recently met. With a background in interior design and design production, but also extensive experience in fairtrade, it is not surprising that Natsumi has an eye for detail while at the same time she is humble and likes to keep her life simple (although that may also have ‘a little’ to do with her Japanese background).
Yesterday I went to her home, where in her very charming vintage lounge and dining room (the rooms she uses to make her pretty slippers) we chatted and I took photos of her at work on a new pair of slippers, and of the simple tools she uses to create them, as well as fabrics and strips of these that lie in waiting to be used for future pairs of comfy, 100% fabric slippers, made according to a traditional Japanese method.
Here, have a look for yourself, and after the slideshow, let’s allow Natsumi to tell a bit more about herself…
Where are you from?
I’m from Chiba, Japan. Tokyo Narita International Airport is in Chiba!
What does Barcelona mean to you?
Here I can meet people from different cultures and backgrounds. It’s nice to feel that I’m a foreigner, just someone in this world. And of course nice weather, beaches, mountains, interesting old and new streets and vibrant festivals, still there are a lot of things to discover.
There are many… depending on my feelings, weather and season. Maybe floating in the sea would be the best in the summer.
It’s not a restaurant but my favourite bakery is BALUARD in Barceloneta. For Japanese food, maybe Restaurante BOUZU in Ronda de Sant Antoni.
I studied interior design at university in Tokyo, during that time I was fascinated to see different cultures and many different ways of life through my journey to India, Nepal and Thailand. After graduating, I worked as a production designer for TV commercials for several years. It was fun but I was working so much, maybe more than the typical
image of Japanese workers.
Then after travelling around Africa in 1999-2000 I changed my direction to work for fairtrade. So instead of travelling again to South America, I stayed for 2 years in Ireland and London to become more confident in my English and to see life in Europe, that was the destination I hadn’t had any interest in before.
Then I got a job as a handicraft designer in Fairtrade Company “People Tree” in Tokyo where I worked for 3 years until moving to Barcelona. It was a great experience and learnt a lot from working with artisans in Bangladesh and India.
How did you get here (i.e. to where you are now)?
I came to Barcelona in the end of 2008 after 3 years of living in Japan with my husband, who is Italian I met in London. The name “Barcelona” sounded good although I only knew Gaudi and Sagrada Familia so started everything new.
At present I work as a Japanese teacher and have just started to make these slippers using recycled fabrics mostly from charity shops. The initial idea was to learn how to make Espadrilles though.
Also I collaborate with FARAFINA, African craft shop in El Gotic. (www.farafina.org) There you will find the slippers in colourful African fabrics.
What inspires you?
Could be everything I see and every experience.
When / how does inspiration strike?
Maybe when I’m relaxed and ready to be stroke…!?
What do you find satisfying about your making process?
I enjoy with all the process of working with my hands, transforming used fabrics into new looks. That also allow me to find problems before being completed and I enjoy finding solutions, giving some modifications. This is a kind of my hobby, relaxed and peaceful.
I want to live simply and flexibly, doing what I like but it should have some meanings to go for… not like just creating something needles in this world. And of course I would like to discover more about this world!
Natsumi’s slippers, with the brand name Na, are available at Farafina, a shop dedicated to all things African, tucked away in the Barri Gòtic (Carrer Amargós 10bis). For more information about Farafina check out their website here, and their Facebook page here.
If you would like a pair (or two, or three, or more!) of Natsumi’s gorgeous slippers, and would like to get in touch with her, just drop me a line (check my contact page for the email address) and I will put you in touch with her. I think I am going to ask her to make me a pair, and thus, I can be the proud wearer of slippers that are BCN Handmade – Na!