Evolving Embroidery

Takumi Yuasa, also known as Pom Zyquitais an embroiderer who explores techniques which express emotion by borrowing the beauty of embroidery materials. The origin of his creativity lies in travel. Takumi learned the joy of discovering a new world through Boy Scout activities. At the age of 16, Takumi began traveling the world as a backpacker and was thoroughly impressed by various genres of art from diverse cultures. In Boy Scouts, Takumi received the "Fuji Award" (equivalent to Eagle Scout), the highest-ranking scout award. At the age of 17, Takumi received financial support from the Hyogo Council Scout Association of Japan as a Fuji Scout to conduct a solo fieldwork project in Morocco researching Amazigh textiles. This experience later became an opportunity for Takumi to follow his passion in the embroidery field. While studying cultural anthropology at Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan, Takumi studied Japanese traditional embroidery under Sumie Nagakusa, a traditional craftsman from Kyoto. Later, Takumi moved to France to study Luneville embroidery for two years as a scholarship student sponsored by Leap for Tomorrow, a Study Abroad Initiative organized by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. After learning the fundamentals at an embroidery school founded by CHANEL's embroidery studio, Lesage, Takumi trained further techniques under the embroidery master Claire Liotta at Les Beaux Arts du Fil.

After returning to Japan, Takumi started creating under the name Pom Zyquita. In 2023, Pom was selected as a finalist in the international embroidery contest "The Hand & Lock Award for Embroidery 2023".

Not A Puppet

Iroha: Please describe your past work, projects, or initiatives.

Pom Zyquita: Embroidery training in France was a battle against loneliness. Among the many embroidery techniques, the most fascinating embroidery for me was Luneville embroidery which is used in Haute Couture. At the age of 21, I went to école Lesage, the school established by atelier Lesage, an embroidery atelier under Chanel, for a year to learn the fundamentals of Luneville embroidery. To learn more advanced techniques, I moved to an embroidery school run by craftsman Claire Liotta. Her school used to be located in Paris, but the year I enrolled, she moved to her hometown and the school was relocated, so I was the only student that year. I was the only Asian in the small French countryside village that had only 800 inhabitants. There were only two buses a day to the neighboring town, and the village only had one supermarket, one tobacco shop, and one bakery. I gained the opportunity to chase my dreams and immerse myself in embroidery, but through my lonely life in the village, I realized that my biggest enemy was my inner spirit of laziness.

When I returned to Japan after completing two years of embroidery training, I wondered whether I wanted to be an artist or a craftsman. I had been struggling to understand what I wanted to create even though I had acquired the skills to express myself. Not only that, I began to realize that I had been turning a blind eye to the reality that the passion that had once flowed naturally had dried up at some point. A never-ending series of questions to myself just began. Where should we draw a line between the passion to pursue dreams and the distorted desires as humans? My artwork "Not A Puppet" was created as a self-resolution at a time when I no longer even knew what I was looking for to get where I was, and I fell into desperation. Fortunately, this artwork was selected as a finalist in the international embroidery contest "The Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery 2023" organized by "Hand & Lock'', an embroidery atelier authorized by the British Royal Family. This work, which expressed the message, "I will not become a puppet of my desires", pulled me out of the darkness where I had unconsciously retreated into my shell after returning to Japan.

Not A Puppet

Last summer, I completed an art residency located in the country of Georgia near the Russian border and created works that applied Neo-Impressionist pointillist techniques to embroidery. In Lunéville embroidery, we combine existing materials such as beads and sequins to create works. However, the colors are prepared by the production factory, so the number of colors are limited. In embroidery, colors cannot be mixed like paint. Taking inspiration from pointillism to reproduce complex hues from a finite number of colors, this work attempted to create complex hues by layering materials of different sizes.

Iroha: What projects are you currently working on?

Pom Zyquita: Are embroiders craftsmen or artists?

Currently, I am not only trying to improve my embroidery techniques, but also training myself in drawing. After I had struggled to express my feelings through embroidery art, I realized that the expression that embodies emotions and the techniques that give form to them are essentially completely different processes.

Historically, the embroidery industry was based on a division of labor, so those who designed and those who did the embroidery were often separate. However, this existing format has many limitations. As a result, even though the art of embroidery has a rich history of thousands of years, I feel it has not experienced any major artistic turning points. I came to the conclusion that we embroiderers today need to strive to explore expressions that are not bound by existing techniques so that we may continue to promote the art of embroidery in hopes that it does not become a living fossil art. I have always felt that because embroidery takes a long time to take shape, it is not suitable for expressing instant emotions. I feel the necessity of combining drawing skills and embroidery techniques. Therefore, I am currently practicing drawing with oil pastels and expressing my instant emotions. Later, I give them a three-dimensional form with delicate embroidery.

A Thrilling Journey Acrossthe Event Horizon

In the process of human evolution, we have chosen to live in society through labor and compensation, and as a result, pure creation has lost its former wonder. The more science and technology develop, the less we seek in art the violence that resides in astonishing beauty. Top it off with the fact that art itself does not relieve poverty; however, when we come face to face with the overwhelming beauty of art, our hearts are moved and our spirits are satisfied. Believing that the embroidery art that I am looking for is born from the collision of the conflict of expression and the training of technique, I draw paintings to express momentary emotions, and I give them shape delicately with a needle and thread. My recent artwork, "DISRESPECT'', was created based on these circumstances and thoughts.

Iroha: What do you plan to do in the future?

Pom Zyquita: I feel that today's embroidery sadly falls between art and craft. In addition, due to the development of machine embroidery and changes in consumer purchasing values, embroidered art or items are now being sold at undeserved prices. I think that making nice little jobs by hand should be an art that requires a long period of training and creation. In today's consumer society, where efficiency is often demanded, shouldn't humans once again ask themselves the true nature of demand? That is why I believe that the ideal craftsman today should be an artist who can create works that not only stimulate the beauty of use but also the sensuous aesthetics that capture humans' pure desire for beauty. I would like to pursue my passion by honing my expressive and technical skills so that I can express this philosophy in a single embroidery art.


The embroidery today is like a candle flickering in the wind. Raising awareness of embroidery art and promoting understanding of its quality and prices will lead to us reconsidering consumption under capitalism. In areas where the traditional art of embroidery is still carried on behind the scenes, it feels like a variety of initiatives are starting to take place for this attempt. In Guatemala, where I visited this past summer of 2023, I learned of a company that pays fair prices to producers for bags that utilize traditional Mayan beadwork and is working to ensure that the technique is passed on to successors as it should be. I also found similar movements in Central Asia when I visited such places as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. In Mexico, efforts are being made to encourage women's social advancement by providing fair wages to embroidery workers in the cottage industry. However, this attempt to bring in embroidery professionals from all over the world and elevate the art of embroidery to a new height is too big and reckless a challenge for me right now. That's why I want to pursue my passion for creating work for myself right now, in preparation for the right time to make this attempt happen. No creator can move people's feelings unless they become the greatest fan of their own works.

Iroha: What are your thoughts regarding Asian hate?

Pom Zyquita: I have traveled to many different places and experienced numerous cultures. I lived in France for two years. While I have experienced being insulted because of my Asian appearance, I have fortunately never experienced any discrimination that made me feel unsafe. 

Interestingly, it is not from the perspective of a victim or a perpetrator that I think about my values ​​with regards to discrimination. When I travel, people often see my face and think I am Chinese. Often, once people begin talking to me and find out I am actually Japanese, their attitude changes completely. People most often show interest in the Japanese culture while disparaging other cultures. While this is proof that Japanese culture has a positive impression around the world, for which I am glad, I simultaneously feel negatively that others change their attitude depending on others' nationality, which is the very definition of discrimination.

Another thing I am constantly reminded of is that more than a few people conclude that the reason I am an embroidery craftsman is because they believe all Japanese people are skilled and delicate. While those words do not hurt my feelings at all, I can not help thinking that we do not pay enough attention to the other meanings hidden behind those words.

I have also experienced shock from some people who are surprised that I do embroidery as a man. Usually, this is a comment said by senior citizens, regardless of their nationality. I feel that this is good news, as the younger generation is becoming less aware of job classification being dependent upon sex. Such awareness is influenced not only by the conscious efforts of individuals but also by the educational environment in which they live. I feel that thinking about what is included in discriminatory behavior comes from having a rich imagination that allows you to consider things from another person's perspective. I think this is a sensitivity that can only be cultivated through interpersonal communication. Sometimes, no matter how polite we are, our words and actions can hurt others. Also, perception is everything. Another person may feel the opposite way you intend to make them feel, and you have no control over that. I feel it is important to remember to honestly reflect on wrong decisions and actions.

Iroha: Based on your background, do you have any advice or a message for young people who want to follow in your footsteps?

Pom Zyquita: Some memorable quotes from my mentor, Sumie Nagakusa, an embroidery craftsman:

To those who struggle to escape from their comfort zone:
"Taking a nap in the city is better than studying in the countryside".

To those who suffer the gap between reality and skill:
"There is no need to use a sharp knife to kill a craftsman, just give them praise and they will stop learning.”

Iroha: Outside of work, what are you most interested in right now?

Pom Zyquita: LEGO, film photography, and traveling the world.

written by Jessica Woolsey / photography : 

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