I love Japan. I feel very inspired by Japanese illustration and design. I also feel very connected to the culture of character design which is present in daily Japanese life. My connection to Japan led me to apply for an artist residency in Fukuoka, Japan and in June last year I travelled to Fukuoka, Japan for an artist’s residency at Studio Kura.
Studio Kura is based in Itoshima, a farming community which produces rice, vegetables and fruit. The rural setting of Studio Kura means that you get to experience a glance into everyday life in Japan. Itoshima is a much slower pace than Tokyo, and has a number of local artists working in the area.
During the residency I designed a workshop for local school children and held an exhibition within the Studio Kura Gallery. The exhibition, which I titled Itoshima Characters, was based on the people I met during my stay. I painted three large wooden panels, with a character design on each panel. I designed one character for the Bonsai gardener (I saw trimming trees down the road from the studio), I designed another character for the chef at the Mochi Cafe, and the last of the three characters was for the old lady who tended the garden next to the studio. She was out there everyday planting vegetables and flowers in a space the size of a nature strip in New Zealand.
Here is a map of Itoshima, taken from the train station. Itoshima is a coastal community surrounded by mountain ranges.
The local hardware shop had lots of great art materials aswell as other items which came in handy. I found some great gifts for my dog 🙂
I use a lot of pattern making in my art, and I found interesting patterns everywhere in Japan. Anything from wallpaper to food.
A short bike ride from the studio was the beach, an amazing view over the ocean.
Across the road from the studio were many rice fields, while I was there I saw the rice grow from small seedlings to large green plants. The landscape changed everyday as the rice grew. Fields of water became greener by the minute.
My studio with a view of the rice fields. The mountains in the background were constantly in cloud.
My favourite cafe in Itoshima was the Mochi Cafe around the corner form Studio Kura. I had a cooking lesson here with the lovely Toshiko. Toshiko was also one of the people I met who inspired me to create a Mochi based character (which became one of the paintings for the exhibition). It is said that the best mochi (japanese sweet rice cake) is made by two bunnies on the moon.
During my stay I designed a wooden toy for a project with local school children. This toy was then laser cut and given to each child to paint in any way they wanted. On the opening night of my exhibition these toys were exhibited is a large central grouping as part of an installation.
The gallery at Studio Kura is based in an old building traditionally used for grain storage, the space had an amazing atmosphere and was an inspiring place to exhibit. I exhibited three large paintings and an installation of toys. The toys were made by the local children and based around a laser cut template I designed on the first week of my residency.