Posts Tagged ‘crafts’

Can Etsy’s crafty goodness be recycled in Japan?

Monday, May 27th, 2013

On May 16, NTT DoCoMo launched d creators, an online market service for creative people in Japan. Similar to Etsy, all the items available are handmade and the content is user generated. Unlike Etsy, though, to sell and buy via the website, you will need a Japanese bank account and purchases are made using bank transfers. This means that it’s likely that the majority of products are being designed and made in Japan, and judging from the exhibition held last weekend (May 25-26) at Daikanyama T-Site Gallery, quite a few of the goods do appear to inspired by Japanese aesthetics.

The website was created for NTT DoCoMo by the advertising agency Dentsu, who have so far curated the current sellers and their goods. Predictably, some of the chosen creators may be familiar to those who like to peruse Tokyo’s design stores. There’s Kokechi’s kokeshi dolls, for example, and Ribbonesia’s brooches. The standards are pretty high, and prices vary, but anyone is allowed to sell products via the site, so there will be more variety in the future.

Products available online include interior goods, accessories, tableware, art, fashion, textiles — even comics, novels and essays.

There’s also information on hands-on workshops led by sellers, the next one being held by Ribbonesia at the Fab cafe in Shibuya on June 9.

Today’s J-blip: nezo art

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

It is said that the only thing worth stealing is a kiss from a sleeping baby. We completely agree, especially when they are the stars of nezo art (which literally translates as “sleeping position art”).

A recent slumber-time tableau by Mami Koide

The art wasn’t exactly made in Japan. The true pioneer in this genre is Finnish former designer Adele Enersen, who rose to Internet fame with her blog Mila’s Daydreams. She photographed her daughter  sleeping in various artsy dreamscapes realized with props and costumes. She eventually spun that popularity into a photo book, titled “When My Baby Dreams” and published in January 2012.

While Mami Koide has clearly been inspired by Enerson, the 41-year-old illustrator diverges from the master by giving her dream tableaux a slightly more DIY vibe. In fact, in her self-imposed rules, Koide says creators of nezo art should strive to use everyday objects found around the house as their props. It’s all a matter of taste, but we prefer the more amateurish, homey nezo creations.

Koide is not alone in Japan. NAVER Matome has compiled an array of photos contributed by individuals who have chosen to put their little ones on the slumber stage. You can also check the Twitter hashtag #NezoArt for more. And if that isn’t enough, there’s Koide’s recently publish photo book, “Nezo Art Book.”

Kokeshi back in style with a new look

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Visitors to Roppongi Art Night at the end of last month were greeted by Hanako, a 13-meter-tall kokeshi doll who towered above the crowds. Despite its size, the doll’s happy, smiling face with its pink cheeks was cuteness incarnate and exemplifies how this traditional wooden doll has been given a kawaii (cute) makeover to appeal to a new generation. Once thought to be rather sinister-looking, out-of-date souvenirs, kokeshi, according to an article in Nikkei Trendy, are now trending among young women.

Hanako holds sway over Tokyo Midtown during Roppongi Art Night

Armless wooden kokeshi dolls, with large heads displaying rigid expressions and bodies decorated a little more cheerfully with floral designs, have long been sold as souvenirs in hot spring resorts throughout the Tohoku region. However, a few years back, the lack of interest among the young in these dolls  meant they began collecting dust on the shelves. An aging population of kokeshi artisans did nothing to cheer up the features of these wooden figures.

The Great East Japan Earthquake, of course, has shaken things up further. While the number of souvenir-shopping tourists in Tohoku has dropped, public consciousness of the crisis has stimulated interest in the dolls. To do her bit to lend support, Genki Numata, a representative of Kokeshika Kamakura, launched the magazine Kokeshi Jidai. Even though it’s only available to order on the net and a few select stores, sales of the magazine have been brisk.

Kokeshika Kamakura, located far from Tohoku in Kamakura, Ishikawa Prefecture, sells kokeshi and attracts a lot of custom from women in their 20s to 40s. But to appeal to this new market, many kokeshi have been given a cute facelift, that make their features somewhat resemble the jolly matryoshka dolls that are also sold in-store. This kawaiification appears to have started before the quake with the modern illustrated “Kokeshi Book” being published back in 2010. But cuteness isn’t the only way to ensure the traditional craft does not die out. Artist SUZUKIKE has created abstract renderings of the doll with fluffy, spiked or totally blank heads, called COKESHI.

Highlighting the fact that kokeshi are back in style, the “Kokeshi Pop” exhibition took place in Shibuya’s Parco department store last month. The aim of the exhibit was to further fuel interest in the craft amongst the fashionable young set and also to encourage people to visit the beleaguered Tohoku region and give local economies there a much-needed boost.

Techno Shugei weaves craft into circuitry

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Techno Shugei's New Year's Rabbit, background knitted by 203gow

Meet Hebitsuke, the friendly felt snake whose eyes light up with joy when he bites his own tail. The snake is the work of the Techno Shugei (Handicrafts) group who published a book in November 2011 containing instructions on how to construct Hebitsuke — a combo of circuit boards with fluffy materials — and much more. The book, which bears the same title as the group, is proving to be a surprise hit, enjoying steady sales with people keen to try their hand at sewing, knitting and simple circuitry.

Hebitsuke's eyes light up when it bites its own tail

Techno Shugei was formed back in 2008 by Kyoko Kasuya and Tomofumi Yoshida, a pair of engineering students who shared the vision of combining handicrafts with circuitry. Their simple witty pieces were pretty popular back in autumn 2009 when we visited the Make: Tokyo Meeting at Ookayama campus of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and since that time they’ve been busy programming and sewing to bring together this crafty collection of electronic objects.

The book contains instructions on how to program the Arduino circuit board used in their works as well as how to sew and fit together works like felt LED broaches and winking fox gloves. They’ve even thought up a fix for the glove/touchpad problem by sewing crosses of conductive thread on the pads of the index finger of a normal glove (quite possibly a cheaper solution than buying touchscreen gloves).

Techno Shugei is affiliated with Make Magazine that runs great events showcasing the work of amateur scientists and crafty types. At the last Make event, their book was in demand and sold out quickly, according to Nikkei Trendy. Another artist who exhibits her work at Make events is guerrilla knitter 203gow who has some works on display at the Make: in Hands event in Shibuya (on until Feb. 28). The knitting artist, whose own octopus-inspired work is currently making waves, has also collaborated with Techno Shugei to produce this cute scene for their New Year’s rabbit.

Unfortunately Techno Shugei won’t be at the Make event in Shibuya, but you can catch an exhibition of their works on the 6th floor of Junkudo book store in Ikebukuro till Feb 28.

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