by Natasha Tauber
While haute couture has, in recent years, moved toward displaying the textural qualities of embellishment through abstraction, Maison des Perles brooches, pins and necklaces are largely representational. Founding artist Môko Kobayashi uses classical haute couture embroidery techniques to create playful accessories that shimmer and enchant. Kobayashi approaches her subjects with a penetrating attention to detail. Each bead is reminiscent of a pixel; every one critical to the entire image. Each crystal references the color on the tube of paint, and the medium's liquid magic. It is an effect accomplished through the meticulous consideration of the direction of embroidery, the type of beads used, their color and reflective qualities.
Maison des Perles practices Crochet de Lunéville, a historic technique in which designs are sketched, outlined on transparent fabric, held taut in a wooden loom, and "colored in" with bead embroidery. Employing a tambour hook (an implement that underscores Maison des Perles's logo) Kobayashi surges through gossamer organza, applying embellishments—favoring French glass beads from the 1930s to '50s. The works are accented with the occasional use of an emphatic crystal; to direct focus, to explain an object and to capture a moment. In "Milk," a glass spills—a single tear shaped crystal drips from the end, creating a palpable tension. In another brooch, a verdant leaf decays from below, the caterpillar culprit hinged to the underside. There are endless designs that balance elegance with a dash of cheekiness, from more than dozen different dog breeds to a cigarette butt.
Kobayashi brings an artist's eye to the technique she learned at Ecole Lesage—the school opened by Paris' oldest embroidery studio Maison Lesage, to train a new generation in the centuries-old art of embroidery. The art is considered so intrinsic to the quality of haute couture that Chanel acquired the atelier in 2002 in a bid to ensure the tradition's longevity. Upon earning a diploma and working for several years in Paris, Chigasaki-born Kobayashi returned home to Japan to apply her mastery of the art form to the themes and aesthetic of Japan's visual culture. Her aim is "to deliver the fascination of Haute Couture embroidery to a number of people through accessory production, advertisements and embroidery workshops."
"We are looking to create artworks which people can find a cue for natural conversation through accessories," she says. Indeed, the pieces resist containment and leap into conversation. Thought bubble brooches make direct statements (usually in French) and ask to be discussed, admired and coveted.
Images courtesy of Maison des Perles