Welcome to our ‘spiral market selection’ interview series, where we look at living from the viewpoint of artists and creators engaged in craftsmanship for daily life. In our fifth interview, we heard from Chisato Yamano and Shohei Fuijta, who together make up the pottery duo Suna Fujita.
──Think and choose for ourselves
We’ve been doing this for around 15 years. Getting started can be quite overwhelming, but we decided we wouldn’t study or look at other artists’ works. We wanted to think and choose for ourselves, and that’s the reason we hardly ever visit friends’ exhibitions and art galleries.
When you visit pottery exhibitions, you can ascertain the artist’s origins. You can see that they’ve been influenced by a particular artist and which ideas they have combined. We’re not saying whether that is good or bad; it’s just that there are so many people making tableware, and there are some incredible artists among them with amazing techniques and painting skills. We realized that we have to think for ourselves if we want to make pieces that are truly distinctive.
When we started working together, Yamano-san’s painting skills were clearly exceptional. I focused on shaping the pieces and glazing, her weaker points, and we thought we had a competitive advantage by complementing each other in that way. But it can be tiring forcing ourselves into that structure, and because we make things for everyday use we have now settled into a style where we simply work on things that pop into our minds.
──That which seems pointless may be the key to an object’s charm
I like to start with an image of my finished product and I don't start painting until I’ve produced a sketch of my ideas. She is the total opposite – she just starts painting. Even so, the balance is wonderful. She is talented, or should I say special in that way. She is perfectly suited to painting pictures. I first make sure that adding an element will have a positive impact on the scene before painting it, and if it has no impact then I won't add it. She just keeps painting even if it doesn’t change the overall impression. The result is pieces that you can gaze at every day and never tire of. Objects that are created in pursuit of efficiency are limited by the logic behind those choices. Her paintings go beyond logic, so I imagine the beholder makes new discoveries every day.
Some of her actions may be ineffective, but it's those seemingly futile things that make that object appealing in the end. I really find that amazing.
──You like animals?
Our motifs include many children, grandmothers and grandfathers. We don't have any models for these. We especially love drawing kids – they always come up so cute with their chubby bodies, short limbs and large heads. When we work on Suna Fujita pieces, we always try to have a broader perspective, including all sorts of living things in a fair manner. That's why you’ll find a grub in the soil on the ground and why our trees don’t focus on the top – we always try to turn our attention to the parts you don't usually see.
Also appearing frequently in our designs are animals – we really like them. We've always said we like animals but over time we start to lose sight of them. We draw tons of animals every day and sometimes we stare at them for so long we can't see them anymore. Is that called “gestalt collapse”? I know that's a term typically used in relation to lexicon or characters, but it's honestly like that. "What is an animal?" – the whole concept falls apart and the parts don't make sense on their own. But it's true, we do love animals. We recently got a puppy of our own and gosh, it’s so cute!
Because we have a small child we are always trying to strike the right balance with family too. There are so many steps in our work that even if we work together for a whole day we can only make five cups, for example. If we try to make lots of items we end up overworked and overtired. We have to set our own rules otherwise we work too hard and become unwell, and then we have nothing. These days we focus and create while our child is in daycare and we make sure to have family time once a week by visiting an aquarium or the zoo.
We hardly ever argue about our work for Suna Fujita. People say we have the ideal relationship and I agree it’s good, but it’s hard for us to say objectively whether it’s good or bad. Of course, I don’t think my lifestyle right now is bad at all, but I’m not confident of what the basis for that is. We don’t compare ourselves to others nor do I think objectively about my value or position. I just think that we’re simply blessed with the life we get to live.
Interview and editing by Spiral