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 sixteenth interview, we spoke with Chihiro Yasuhara who creates textiles and products from her own colorful illustrations of plants and animals.
──Standing at the cusp of life and art
In between graduating from art university and starting as a freelancer, I worked at three companies engaged in craftsmanship. My biggest gains from these experiences were as a person, rather than as an employee. At art university we were expected to express our individuality freely and were never taught about answering telephones or proper Japanese business writing. I’m so grateful I had the chance to work in an environment that took great care to teach me those things.
Right now, my idea is to bring a touch of art to daily life – I want to stand at the cusp of life and art. I place great importance on my interactions with customers who buy my work, clients, and manufacturers who turn my illustrations into products, so I feel very fortunate that I was able to study the basic etiquette for such interactions when I was a company employee.
──A world of work made possible through experience
I dive into everything I do, even when the work is totally new to me or requires me to challenge myself anew. I see these moments as invaluable opportunities to showcase my work in a way that wouldn’t be possible on my own. Starting out, no one ever sought my work; I had to create my own opportunities and sell myself. Thanks to the variety of work I’d done previously, when work requests gradually started coming in, I hit my stride and was able to make suggestions and negotiate based on the knowledge and experiences I’d built up to that point.
As a beginner I always tried to do whatever I could to make the most of my time and energy, but now that I’m on my own there are limitations, so I have to think carefully about using my time effectively. That’s true not only in my work, but for my lifestyle too. Without even noticing, these experiences have become a part of me. The work I can engage in now is totally different to the kinds of things I was doing when I was young and prided myself on my stamina.
──Keeping a record of my creations
For me, selling the original picture I use for my handkerchief designs is a way of keeping a record of my creations, because even if the original work sells, I can keep making handkerchiefs over and over again. I think that explains why I’m not that attached to the originals and I’m happy to part ways with them.
The handkerchiefs are made at a factory in Japan but it’s really tricky and there are always issues. I’ve had to change the fabric multiple times. I like to print on silk but because fewer people use silk, the material is no longer available or the price has gone up. It feels like a lot is changing in the world of craftsmanship.
──The day the brush fit perfectly in my hand
Recently, it’s been taking me longer to draw my illustrations. All of a sudden one day I felt like the brush fit perfectly in my hand. I was able to draw in such detail and I could draw parts with my brush that I previously had to incorporate using other methods. But because every element is hand-drawn now, it takes me so much longer.
Also, before if I used a flower as my motif, I’d look at the flower once and not again until I was done, drawing just the essence of the object from my memory. But now I spend a lot of time researching and observing, focusing mostly on the colors, not the contours. I draw a rough sketch of the outline and modify it slightly to create my illustrations.
I draw more layers now too, so I think my images have more density these days. Sometimes I’ll be using a paint color and it appears cheap. That’s when I know it’s not good enough and I have to keep painting. Then I reach that moment when it goes from looking unpolished to being exactly what I want.
I don’t think it’s possible to master the skills I need simply by drawing every day. In a given moment there’s something you want to draw and there are methods to bring it together. The things I want to be able to do and exhibit now differ from the past, necessitating different techniques to what I’ve used before.
Interview and editing by Spiral
Creators Table held from April 22 to May 19, 2019 at + S Spiral Market Marunouchi.
Items by Chihiro Yasuhara are available in Spiral Online Store.