The Magical Creative Journey of Honami Nishii

Summer 2014 has been another long hot one, much to the joy of myself and many others here in London. There’s hardly been a moment to take a breath and of course this means I have been lucky enough to meet more wonderful people and create lots of interesting portraits, which you will get to experience in the coming weeks.

A major highlight of the start of the season was the Chelsea College of Arts undergraduate show, which produced a myriad of talent in fine art, interior and spatial design, graphic design communication and textile design. Much of the final year students’ work really captivated me and one in particular which stood out was textile designer Honami Nishii.

©Honami Nishii

Degree Show ©Honami Nishii

In her graduate collection Honami printed computer files as textile reliefs. She was inspired by how digital technology is influenced by our lives. Data is a material with very special qualities: it is flexible, it can not age, and we can output it anytime. Using digital icons as print patterns, she imagined what materiality these intangible elements have.

©Honami Nishii

Untitled Folders ©Honami Nishii

Her Untitled Folders piece stopped me in my tracks and I instantly wanted to know more about it. I also thought of the thousands of portraits I have in my own folders and how they hide away so easily behind these small blue files on my Apple Mac.

Honami Nishii in Crystal Palace

Honami Nishii in Crystal Palace    ©Gavin Freeborn

Honami, originally from Japan came to London five years ago and has been engrossed in creative learning since she first stepped off the plane. Spending a number of months enlightening herself travelling in Europe before her studies, it’s obvious to me that Honami’s creativity has really blossomed during her time here and at Chelsea, part of the University of the Arts London. Now she is in her last few months in Europe as if sandwiched in time around her studies. These in and out periods act as a playful and informative time which prepares one for the next step in life.

Honami on her temporary street

Honami on her temporary street    ©Gavin Freeborn

As Honami will return to Japan soon she has been feeling free in London, having all sorts of magical adventures including house-sitting for friends in Crystal Palace. I went to explore the area for the first time as I’d heard lots of good reports about the neighbourhood and wanted to interview and photograph Honami in her temporary home.

As always my epicurean streak came out and I googled the best places for Sunday brunch. The Blackbird Bakery came up tops, so we arranged to start our conversation there…whilst feasting our eyes and our bellies on their homemade delights. Satisfied and as full as frogs we literally rolled down the hill and Honami took me to the wonderful Haynes Lane Market where we enjoyed rummaging through antiques including a vintage gramophone which linked nicely to our progression into the digital age.

We headed down the hill to visit the lovely semi-detached family home that Honami was taking care for a few weeks. I could really see that she was in her element in this beautiful space where her friend, a fellow designer and her author husband used the garage and a garden shed as their work spaces, in a lovely little garden which magically leads into an allotment that looks down over the valley towards Kent. It’s like something out of a novel that likely sits on one of the many bookshelves in this family home.

I photographed Honami in her temporary abode…with the essence of England and London all around her. Little signs like the Queens’ ERII insignia embroidered on a chair she sat on, a whole bookshelf dedicated to London in her room. We ended our shoot in the garden where Honami opened the door into the allotment producing a feeling of pure magic.

Honami on British soil

Honami on British soil ©GavinFreeborn

The Curiosities of London

The Curiosities of London ©GavinFreeborn

Honami's Secret Garden

Honami’s Secret Garden ©GavinFreeborn

The Next Step

Honami’s Future ©GavinFreeborn

Over Thai food that evening I talked excitedly about my own deep roots surrounded by the cultural and creative jewels of my homeland in Ireland. I recommending strongly that Honami spends at least a week discovering the mystical island I originally came from. I’m sure she will find plenty of inspiration there to take back with her to Japan and a little fairy dust too. Talking of Japan, I was lucky enough to spend a month there myself some time ago and look forward to seeing it again one day for further explorations.

Interestingly Honami told me her family name Nishii means West and her mother’s maiden name is Azuma, which means East. So if “nomen est omen” as the old Latin saying goes, then her time here has surely seen that destiny through with East meeting West. In terms of what is next on her life journey in Europe and when she returns to her home country Japan, whatever Honami’s future holds I’m sure it will be a bright one as she’s a stellar creative and a wonderful young lady.

Take a look at Honami’s website and enjoy the film she made to show her creative process.


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