Jensin Okunishi Studio

Licensed Brand
Products: Rugs

Jensin Okunishi, founder and creative director of Osaka-based Jensin Okunishi Studio, says that from the first glimmer of her idea to launch a rug atelier, she wanted hers to be a business that would make a difference. “It is fine for something to be beautiful and a piece of art,” she says of her rugs, “but when I thought about actually starting a business, I wanted it to serve more than just that.” As part of that commitment there was no question that she would ally herself with an organization like GoodWeave®. “Together we are both on the same page wanting to end child labor and support opportunities for children down the road, “she says.

Jensin’s sense of justice isn’t new. Early on, she says modestly, she was politically active and in college chose activities like volunteer trips rather than rowdy spring breaks. It was, however, not until she was in the prestigious textile program of Rhode Island School of Design learning traditional crafts such as dying, spinning and weaving that she began to deeply understand the value of traditional artisanship. Later while working in the churn of the high-end fashion industry she saw first-hand the consequences of the “throwaway “culture and the need for supply chain transparency. It was then she really knew her direction and the ethics that would drive her enterprise. She launched Jensin Okunishi Studio.

The aesthetic that drives her designs and process is rooted in color and memory, she explains. For example, Moon Pools, a 100% Himalayan hand knotted piece in rippling golds and rich blues was inspired by an old memory of lying in the moonlight in a park in her Ohio hometown. The rug, she explains, is a way to embrace the feeling of moonlight and night sky.

When Jensin speaks about rugs, she often uses the word “precious”. She sees hand crafted rugs as potential heirlooms. Their value, she believes, is in the stories each tells of the individual weavers and of the individual family who might own the rug and hand it down to the next generation. The rug Gems was inspired by precious stones. Even in their unpolished form, she says, gems offer a type of beauty, precision and the potential for refraction of light that one might see in a beautiful piece of jewelry passed to future generations. The hand dyed, Himalayan wool piece is a combination of bold bands of color and subtle ombré which she hopes can create “moments for pause and meditation”.

A more whimsical rug, Picnic Basket, plays with arches and on the idea of the contents of a picnic basket full of little surprises or “small delights”. Those surprises, she says, are an interplay of several different kinds of shapes in a palette of pastels. The rug itself is a “mini”, part of a series of smaller rugs (2’x3’) designed to be a favorite for a generation who appreciate art and design but who are more mobile. “I want to create something small enough to move with and interesting enough to actually cherish.”

Her deep connection with rugs and their makers is apparent. “There is just so much labor and love put into them.” She says that from the very onset she was clear about the goals for her business. It would be a reflection of her values. Respect for the artisans who craft the rugs was and is front and center. “That should really be a guiding force instead of a second thought.”

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