In the world of textile art, Toshiko MacAdam made a name for herself as the creator of incredible crochet playgrounds for children. Hers is an amazing form of textile art that gives a nod to the world of architecture and provides an artful experience where children learn through play and experimentation.
Born in 1940 in wartime Tokyo, MacAdam studied art in Tokyo and in Michigan and started her artistic career as a house designer for a prestigious interior textile firm in New York City. She approached fiber art in the early 1970s and some of her first pieces enjoyed acknowledgment in numerous books and magazines.
The idea of creating textile playscapes came after watching two children happily climb onto a knitted sculptural artwork she was exhibiting in an art gallery in Tokyo. From that moment, she decided to take her art into the real world to establish a connection between her work and real people. Her first large-scale public playscape, which was commissioned for a national park in Okinawa in 1979, proved hugely popular and was followed by several others. Then, in 1990, together with her husband she founded Interplay Design & Manufacturing, a design company that offers textile play environments for public spaces.
Although she doesn’t ’s think of herself as an architect, most of her creations involve architectural ideas that have often drawn inspiration from Antonio Gaudì’s works, as she explained in various interviews. Each one of her colourful playscapes is unique and realized almost exclusively with thick nylon rope, which maintains structural strength when stretched, thus ensuring a safe environment. What’s more, her crochet structures mimic the floating motion children experience in the mother’s womb, thus creating a familiar surface that is responsive to their movements, where they can connect with other children and start playing together.
MacAdam is a firm believer that a great playground is one that challenges children and allows them to take risks. That’s why her playspaces have no fixed route and include all sorts of swings, nets, and cushions for kids to explore and experiment. This way, they develop social skills and learn through play.
The beautiful artworks of this talented fiber artist have been exhibited in many important museums and galleries all over the world, and she’s also taught at prestigious universities. One of her most famous works is the gigantic textile structure titled Knitted Wonder Space 2, which is housed inside the Woods of Net Pavilion at the Hakone Open-Air Museum in Japan. Weighing approximately one tonne, it was produced entirely by hand over a period of one year and required over 600 kg of nylon.
With her innovative crochet playgrounds, MacAdam has shown us that art doesn’t necessarily have to be confined to galleries and museums, but can actually be used to spread joy among people. What’s more, she reminded us that art plays an important role in the children’s ability to interact with the world around them. Take a look at Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam’s website to explore all of her beautiful creations.