He develops his own colors to dye fabrics.


All the while, conveying this way of being.


On an open campus enveloped by the mountains.


Taketa city is found in the southwest of Oita prefecture. It’s a place that retains its ancient castle town character and is famous for being the setting for Rentaro Taki’s “The Moon over the Ruined Castle” composition. But that’s not all. Taketa is surrounded by an abundance of nature including springs, waterfalls, crystal clear rivers, bamboo thickets, as well as mountain ranges and grassy plains.


In addition to those drawn to the city charms for sightseeing, there has recently been an increase in those visiting, gathering in and moving to the city to for reasons of craftmanship. It seems that this environment stimulates the urge to create in artists and creatives alike.


In the Naoirimachi district of the city, many young students are gathering at the Taketa campus of Oita Prefectural College of Arts and Culture, using the area as a place to create.


Students feel that Taketa campus - which makes use of the former Simotaketa elementary school site - is the perfect place to create their pieces. It is also appreciated by local people and first-time visitors alike, as it as a welcoming place they can step inside without any trepidation. Maeda is a lecturer and an artist of dye who has, since the building opening in 2010, sojourned here, managed the space, and assisted students.


Maeda, who wears a blue hanten jacket that seems to be an extension of his body, along with a white scarf around his neck, comes out and says, “Please come in”, with a smile and invites us inside. With just one glance, one realizes that the free and open atmosphere of the space is the result of him releasing his personal energy.


A place where you create things together while fostering possibilities.


Inside this building, which functions as a workshop, you will find not only Maeda’s dyed pieces, ceramics, sculptures, and paintings made by students, but also a storeroom for the works, a kitchen, and lodgings, as well as – for some curious reason – a camping tent set up in the hallway. Amidst all this disorder, I find a casually placed piece of Maeda’s work and I am lost for words.


Being developed inside a wooden frame is a gradation of colour that flows gently. Next to this is another wooden frame containing a geometrical pattern that has been built up through repeated dyeing and shaping to form a picture of a robot. These pieces exceed the notion of dyeing dramatically and overturns our previously held conception of an artist who dyes fabrics.


This artist, who stands in front of me in a hanten jacket and laughs shyly, is able to create a world that will not be satisfied to remain within these wooden frames. I feel an infinite expanse and profundity in both this work and his workshop.


Education is not an act of pushing people, but rather it is about experimenting while playing and making things together, exploring possibilities and extending one’s range of expression. Maeda cultivated this sort of sensibility in his student days.


He met a mentor at an art college and encountered dyeing.


Maeda’s father ran his own furniture shop, which likely influenced Maeda, as from a young age he developed a liking for arts and crafts.

His desire to be a craftsman was unchanged upon graduation from high school and he initially wanted to make things with practical use. He went to a civil engineering & construction college and then found employment in the industry. “However, my desire to make things without any practical use grew and grew so I quit my job to go to a fine art college”, Maeda says.


The reason for wanting to make objects without any practical use? “That’s what looked more interesting!”, says Maeda with a laugh. There was no deep reason but the feeling welled up inside him and he decided to pursue it.


And then, at Oita Prefectural College of Arts and Culture, he discovered dyeing, which became a turning point in his life, and met Masao Yoshimura, his mentor-to-be, who lives to embody “interesting things” in novel pieces. Disciples, of which Maeda was the first, gravitated towards this man who was constantly at work, constantly holding interesting points of view, and who enjoyed daily life to its fullest.


At the feet of this mentor, these troupes of craft lovers drank, made a commotion, and laughed just to enjoy themselves. Maeda’s sensibility was cultivated amidst such a scene of playing. “To create is to live”, he was often told by his old mentor, who created until the day he died. Maeda learned from him, and inherited his way of being, and is now a similar sort of mentor to his own students, passing along what he has learnt.


Once you have your sensibility you can go on living.


Maeda does not use teaching methods that force his students into a straitjacket. While he only teaches the basics, he leaves the rest to possibility, and lets his students create their own colors that are individual to them. To find those colors, they have no option but to explore the sensibilities that are hidden deep within them.
Just like children pleasing themselves with their scribbles, it does not matter if nothing becomes of the work. Even crazy concepts or genre-bending are acceptable, and by simply following their inner feelings they can create unique pieces.
Through this kind of experimental process of creation, he wishes his students to find their own colors.



“I have no issue with them becoming a salaryman or a housewife upon graduation and discontinuing their art. One day, they may suddenly remember their art and come back to it, or perhaps they will transmit their artistry to their children. The sensibility they at one point touched won’t be forgotten.”

From his grandparents in the countryside and the nearby river water, the color of the sky, and the fresh green leaves, to the depth of the sea, the geometrical patterns he likes, and the objects that look like human beings, he will continue to dye fabrics and create in a way guided by his innate sense of fascination.
Maeda’s way of being shows that once you’ve acquired these sensibilities they won’t be forgotten.


In a corner of the workshop, a ceramic selection of vegetables with faces on them are lined up. Pieces made from scrap wood that has been encased in resin are also found here and there. Objects that have no practical use in human progress shine a light on and add richness to our lives.


A man travelled a certain path with a voice that said, “I want to make things with no practical use”. At this mountain village campus, he now gently conveys his conviction that these objects are actually his greatest supporters in life.