Playground Crochet by Toshiko Horiuchi

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Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, who orders yarn by the ton for her creations, is the textile artist behind the oft photographed net constructions at the Hakone sculpture park in Sapporo Japan.

I love the story of how she came to be engaged with children’s play:  “It all happened quite by accident. Two children had entered the gallery where she was exhibiting ‘Multiple Hammock No. 1’ and, blissfully unaware of the usual polite protocols that govern the display of fine art, asked to use it. She watched nervously as they climbed into the structure, but then was thrilled to find that the work suddenly came alive in ways she had never really anticipated. She noticed that the fabric took on new life – swinging and stretching with the weight of the small bodies, forming pouches and other unexpected transformations, and above all there were the sounds of the undisguised delight of children exploring a new play space.”

From that point, her work shifted out of the gallery and a subdued, monochromatic palette into a riotous rainbowof colors for children’s playscapes.

Rainbow Net was produced in close collaboration with structural engineers TIS & Partners and landscape architects Takano Landscape Planning and opened in July of 2000 after three years of planning, testing, and building.

Note that the project began with a brief not for a playground, but simply for ‘public art’.   Wouldn’t it be great if when we heard ‘public art’ we automatically thought ‘play’?

But innovative playscapes require an enormous commitment:

“…endless cycles of discussion and approval, with meticulous attention to detail…[including] an actual scale wooden replica of the space in Horiuchi’s studio and accurately scaled crocheted nets using fine cotton thread. Even then, it was difficult to assess many things. What difference, for instance, would the weight of the real yarn make when everything increased in scale? All of these factors had to be calculated in order to arrive at a scientific methodology that could eradicate any risk of unacceptable danger.”

During final assembly, Toshiko crocheted ten hours a day, often on her knees, until the installation was complete.

With the current revival of the textile arts and yarn bombings everywhere, I’d love to see more crochet on the playground!

UPDATE:  see a new post on Toshiko’s Horiuchi MacAdam’s work with additional information and photos

19 Responses to “Playground Crochet by Toshiko Horiuchi”

  1. Paige Johnson said:

    Hi Janet,
    Thanks for your comment. I will pass it on to Toshiko.
    Best,
    Paige

    January 27, 2016 at 1:34 pm

  2. janet figueroa ugarte said:

    existe alguna dirección donde yo pueda enviar una carta directamente ala artistaGracias janet Figueroa Ugarte

    January 25, 2016 at 11:25 am

  3. janet figueroa ugarte said:

    Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam,

    Canada.

    My name is Janet Figueroa Ugarte. I am a Chilean artist, I create knitted wall murals.
    I have researched your work and I was very impressed by your reputation and career.
    I am deeply Interested in replicating your work in my country, by making a project for children
    playgrounds.
    I present this letter to you, to find out about copyright and intellectual property in your work.
    My goal is to conduct this project in my country entitled by you, relying on your authorization and
    approval. And considering all legal and formal aspects related to this.

    Looking forward to your response,

    Yourse sincerely,
    Janet Figueroa Ugarte

    January 22, 2016 at 6:35 am

  4. Paige Johnson said:

    Hi Jane,
    You can reach Toshiko through her own website, netplayworks.com

    January 26, 2015 at 12:07 pm

  5. Jane Ng said:

    I love this! I love the art work of Toshiko. Can I have a chance to invite Toshiko to make one in Malaysia? How do I reach her?

    January 22, 2015 at 10:24 am

  6. Unusual Crochet Items by Millie | 2 Crochet Hooks said:

    […] had to include this – a HUGE example of crochet. Kids are swinging on yarn covered balls under a yarn covered something. This is […]

    November 13, 2013 at 10:39 am

  7. Traci Connor said:

    Come visit us at the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem in NC and experience one of Toshiko Horiuchi Macadam’s masterpieces in the United States! It’s even more wonderful than we had hoped and working with Toshiko and her husband, Charles, was truly a joy and an honor. Hope to see you on the net! http://childrensmuseumofws.org/climb-our-new-kaleidoscape/

    June 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm

  8. google said:

    google…

    Google http://news.google.com

    June 10, 2013 at 1:35 pm

  9. Elmore Swellmore said:

    Wildly creative, engaging and enjoyable. Makes me wish I were a kid again! Keep up the exceptional work Toshiko and continue crocheting the town!!!!!

    May 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm

  10. Innovative Structures for Outdoor Play – Adults Included. | OMGBTW said:

    […] Crocheted Playground from Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam pictured: “Takino Rainbow Nest” at Takino Suzuran National Park, Hokkaido, Japan (installed 2000) “Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, who orders yarn by the ton for her creations, is the textile artist: “It all happened quite by accident. Two children had entered the gallery where she was exhibiting ‘Multiple Hammock No. 1′ and, blissfully unaware of the usual polite protocols that govern the display of fine art, asked to use it. She watched nervously as they climbed into the structure, but then was thrilled to find that the work suddenly came alive in ways she had never really anticipated. She noticed that the fabric took on new life – swinging and stretching with the weight of the small bodies, forming pouches and other unexpected transformations, and above all there were the sounds of the undisguised delight of children exploring a new play space.” From that point, her work shifted out of the gallery and a subdued, monochromatic palette into a riotous rainbow of colors for children’s playscapes.” by Paige Johnson in Play-Scapes.com […]

    April 07, 2013 at 5:30 pm

  11. arcady said:

    Indeed…thanks for the correction maureen!

    July 30, 2012 at 5:28 pm

  12. CrookedHouseRugs said:

    Gorgeous and fun!
    Thanks, Maureen
    (PS I believe you mean palette)

    July 30, 2012 at 2:18 pm

  13. thecardboardcollective.com said:

    We have been to this play structure with my daughters and not only is this a vibrant and beautiful piece of sculpture, it's an amazing playscape. The crocheted pockets create a “Watership Down” feeling as you navigate your way to the upper open space. If you ever visit Japan, this sculpture is located in the tourist area near Mount Fuji, not Sapporo. Definitely a must see for every family that lives in or visits Japan. http://www.hakone-oam.or.jp/english/ They have also recently opened another incredible structure for children to play in called curved spaces which looks a lot like a 3 dimensional network of bubble passageways.

    May 17, 2012 at 4:01 am

  14. Jeffrey Willius said:

    Love this post and “rethinkingchildhood's” comment about thinking of art and play together!!

    November 28, 2011 at 9:35 pm

  15. misait said:

    Love this post.

    November 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm

  16. rethinkingchildhood.com said:

    “Wouldn't it be great if when we heard 'public art' we automatically thought 'play'?”
    Yes it would! And also when we heard 'fountain', and when we heard 'seating' and when we heard 'planting' and when we heard 'public space'. I can dream…

    November 22, 2011 at 9:00 pm

  17. growingupcreative.com said:

    i have been following your blog fora while now
    i always find inspiration in your posts
    i am working on a series of outdoor art installations that are interactive using crafts
    this is a great referance
    thanks
    tali

    November 21, 2011 at 8:40 pm

  18. Stephanie said:

    Fabulous! This may be my favorite of your posts EVER. So colorful, so imaginative, so beautiful! I agree – playgrounds need more crochet!

    November 19, 2011 at 8:20 pm

  19. Beth said:

    Wow! This is so cool. I love that a little child innocence and adult acceptance resulted in this fun and Beautiful play structure!

    November 18, 2011 at 7:18 pm

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