Mari Tobita

Mari Tobita with one of her designs at TNNA

Mari Tobita with one of her designs at TNNA

I first heard about Mari Tobita from Pearl Chin - a source of many good things, as we who know and love Knitty City are aware. She suggested that the readers of our blog might like to learn about knitters who have talents that complement their love of fiber arts, and went on to tell me about Mari Tobita. Mari is a gifted knitwear designer whose work is featured in a variety of knitting magazines and on Ravelry. Here are a few examples of her designs.  Many more can be seen on her page. Mari particularly cited Shirley Paden as one of her treasured mentors in the art of knitting and design.

Photo credits: Left to right (upper): Soho Publishing; Left to right (lower):Knit Simple Spring/Summer 2012, photo by Paul Amato for; Sixth&Spring Books

While I loved her knit patterns, I wanted to know  more about Mari and her work on the entertainment front. On   her Facebook page she shares her fascination and involvement with film and animation. She often works as a behind-the-scenes artist on projects in production. One of her recent jobs found her working on the animation feature:"Kubo and the Two Strings".  To date, the film has garnered  19 awards, and it has been nominated for 2 Academy Awards, one for special effects and one for best animation feature.

Winner of over 19 awards & nominated for two Oscars  

Winner of over 19 awards & nominated for two Oscars  

I contacted Mari recently, and had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about how she came to be involved. She had some interesting  things to tell us about her work and her creative passion - one and the same thing.

Mari is part of a talented group that works in a specialized atmosphere, and while all are integral to the finished product, many work behind the scenes to make it come alive.  An animated  film such as "Kubo"  takes thousands of hours of production and attention to detail that can only be accomplished by those who have the patience and dedication to fine tune the smallest aspect of a project. Usually, they work under strict security so the artists are not allowed to take pictures of their work or even have cameras on hand.  When I asked her about her contribution to the effort, she was quick to explain that while her work was needed, it is not obvious on screen. It's her support to minute details that adds to the fine finished product  that one sees in the background in the film. She also developed some of the mock-ups that enable individual departments to create the special effects and features that have made this animation so worthy of notice and award.

We were curious to learn about her education and training since her work is so specialized. Mari attended Hokkaido University of Education where she was an  Art major,  as well as The Art Students League of New York. On the job experience has also contributed to her ongoing growth as an artist. Considering the rapid pace of technology, it's obvious that she's an adept learner. While she modestly stressed the fact that her work is not specifically seen within the film, we thought it would be neat to show you a trailer from the work, where you will see the results of her collaborative efforts.

Mari was kind enough to send me some additional pictures of origami birds and a spider that were influences for the wings and characters that made it into the film. She often employs origami while working on projects, and I also discovered that she was a puppet maker with the Jim Henson Company, once upon  time. Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

Photo Credit for above images:  Two Strings LLC

It's obvious that her love of multiple crafts have led her to find expression in many forms.  As knitters, we are grateful she's part of our crowd. As film goers and enthusiasts, we also benefit from her abilities. I was fortunate enough to see "Kubo and the Two Strings".  I did so because I knew of Mari's involvement. It's a magical delight!