One fateful gathering three years ago brought us face to face with a number of amazing Perthites, people searching to share in their love of creativity and also forge meaningful connections. Many of these awesome folk have gone on to become good friends and I’m so so glad we got to meet Chiaki and her husband, Simon, that evening. I have never met anyone convey so much warmth and positivity simply by the strength of her presence and the way in which she expresses herself through her life and creative work.
Chiaki is the mother and maker of Toro e Toro, purveyor of individualistic creations and best known for her “kilim dolls”. You may also find her smiling face popping up at places such as Madam Bukeshla in Fremantle. Be sure to say hi!Tell us about Toro e Toro. What does the name mean and how did you start this venture?
I began my creative career studying graphic design at university. I initially worked as a designer and then worked a number of years as a fashion stylist in Tokyo, mostly on photo shoots and videos for Japanese musicians.
When I turned 40 I decided that I really wanted to start creating my own work. I had a deep desire to realise my own world, work at my own pace and fully enjoy what I was doing. This is when I came up with the idea for Toro e Toro, which means Bull and Bull in Italian. The name originates from my star sign – Taurus.
Toro e Toro represents my craft work, but another side passion I have is organising exhibitions for other artists.
Your kilim dolls are so unique and have so much personality. A lot of love goes into putting each one together, where does each part come from?
There is a great story behind each component of these dolls. The patterned main body of my kilim dolls is made from unique handcrafted kilim carpets. They are actually offcuts I receive directly from Turkey from a friend whose family have been involved in the kilim trade for many years. He remembers watching his mother making kilim when he was a child and thinking how much effort went into each rug, hence even small offcuts represent significant amounts of time! I’m so happy that my dolls can give these pieces new life.
The face and back of each doll is made from antique French linen that I hand dye using onion skins. It produces such a lovely colour. I then embroider the features of the face with linen thread, and sew on the hair which is made from the same wool used to weave kilims. I dye the hair a variety of colours, once again using natural dyes.
You always have an air of peace and happiness about you! Do you have a life philosophy or some words of advice for others?
There is a Japanese concept known as kotodama. Fundamentally, is the belief that words have power. Thus, when I speak I always endeavour to choose positive words as much as possible.
How do you balance being a parent with being a creative and having a career?
It can be hard sometimes, but I don’t really separate them. My home and creative lives are mixed and I switch back and forth many times a day.
What’s in store for Toro e Toro? Any exciting new directions?
This week I will be running a couple of workshops at Madam Bukeshla, a wonderful clothing store in Fremantle. On Thursday 10th August there will be a Kilim Doll workshop and on Friday 11th August a Yeti Doll workshop. If anyone is interested in more details they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spaces are seriously limited to these small group workshops, so email Chiaki quick sticks!
Chiaki Zushi / Toro e Toro / Instagram / email@example.com
My meeting with Chiaki has given me pleasure and knowledge.