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. For our sixth interview, we spoke with Kumiko Nakagawa, an artist who creates accessories and three-dimensional works employing metal casting techniques.
──Commencing work as an artist
Since about five years ago I have had my own studio among various office spaces on the first floor of an apartment complex. My creations are only small so I just chose the location with very little thought as to size – I don’t need a lot of space. I love it because right next to me is a delicious coffee shop.
From the moment I started renting the studio space, I decided to quit all my part-time jobs and focus solely on my works. In my mind at the time, a true artist could someday make a living if they focused solely on their creations. I did not got funding or anything like that. The timing was right so I just made a decision and set about making it happen. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t decided to rent my studio. I realize now how good it is to have my own space to work in.
──Discovering metal casting
I have always been drawn to pieces created using casting techniques. When it came to working on pieces myself, I loved the feel of metal casting the most so I decided to major in it at university. Metal exhibits totally different colours depending on how it is treated, and I found that cast metals have a lovely soft hue. My perspective has changed somewhat since and colour is much less of a consideration than it used to be, but at the time I was really influenced by colour.
During my studies I made abstract three-dimensional pieces, but around the time of graduation I thought about the relationship of “production as a lifestyle” and how I could connect what I do to other people. It occurred to me that accessories come the closest to my picture of how those elements tie in. Right after graduating I had the opportunity to participate in an exhibition with experienced casting artists whose focus is the production of accessories. I have followed their lead ever since. I am so grateful to the artists I met there and the chance to assist in creating jewelery, which came about because of those connections - it was was a valuable learning experience for me.
──Conveying the quality of metal
Recently I have been exhibiting three-dimensional pieces and accessories together. I find that half of each category is a good balance. Rather than hoping to sell my three-dimensional pieces I use them as a way of demonstrating the qualities of metal. With my accessories I think about balance and often use plant motifs, as I believe that makes it easier to pair with outfits. I see myself as creating a common language connecting customers with my pieces. The three-dimensional works are more about my personal interests, experimenting with casting techniques and materials. I see the two categories quite separately, but I do hope one day to put together an exhibit where there is a natural flow, a natural fit between these two disparate elements created by one person.
In reality, the two materials I use — tin for three-dimensional objects and silver for accessories –
are highly incompatible, and even the tiniest presence of tin tarnishes the finish of silver. Because of that, I plan my production on two separate schedules. My favourite part of the whole production process is creating prototypes. When making accessories and other items in a series, the process is already established so I get in a groove and focus on finishing them all at once. For stand-alone one-of-a-kind items, I have to start from the prototype stage each time, and because the approach is different to creating a series of items, I find it very refreshing.
Many of my works are series created from a single word that I have chosen for an exhibition. My most recent exhibition title was sleeve (as in the part of a garment that covers the arm). My imagination is fueled by the word I have chosen, and I think about the season and how I would like to exhibit my items. I want my ideas to expand and flow out, to feel like a breeze. I am constantly doing research on ideas for motifs in my works. I carry the things that I have seen or experienced within me and after a while it all comes flowing out.
I used to think that the role of an artist was to create something like nothing else in the world. But when it comes to accessories, you need to create in volume to a certain extent. That experience has helped me better understand what it means to create something that is truly one-of-a-kind. At my exhibitions I would really like as many people as possible to see my one-of-a-kind pieces. Unique pieces that can only be viewed in that place and that moment – that’s what I want to show to visitors who make the effort to come to my exhibitions.
The plinths used in this recent exhibition were made by a friend of mine. It’s a bit suffocating if everything has been made by me. Even having just one piece of someone else’s work overlapped with mine helps me see things in a different light. It’s so important to incorporate at least one composed viewpoint.
Interview and editing by Spiral