March 31, 2017

Chie Chihiro–Interview

Sisters Chie and Chihiro talk to us about collaborating, their parents' pottery studio, and its impact on their work.

As you may know, Nomikomu is run by a pair of sisters – so we have some idea of how it feels to work with a sibling! How do you find working with your sister?

I think the pressure is halved, and the fun is doubled!

We find it very easy to work together, we think alike and don't need to try and convince each other of our ideas and how we want them to work. We’ve had enough conversations since Chihiro was born.

Chie – I think you studied illustration in London? What led to your decision to move here? How did you find it compared to Saga, where you grew up?

I visited London back in 2005, when I was deciding which college I should go to.

I remember going to East London, and discovering all the underground culture that was going on - this was very inspiring for me as a 17-year-old. Also, I was surprised how many museums were free to visit, and how people from all over the world were sharing and enjoying the same art. 

I now live in a rural area of Southern Japan called Saga. There are not so many museums as London but it has beautiful nature which changes season by season. Time passes more slowly, which gives us lots of space and inspiration for work.

You have two upcoming exhibitions in Osaka; are you able to reveal a little of what will be in store at these shows?

These shows have actually already happened, but we have another show coming up in Tokyo. This show is a collaboration with Meriyasu Kataoka, who is a stuffed toy artist. We have designed ceramic parts for the toys, such as paws and noses and other accessories.

What direction do you hope to take your work in 2017? Are there any exciting projects in the pipeline?

If all goes to plan, we are looking to release our first children's picture book later in the year.

Your parents ran a pottery studio while you were growing up. How much has that impacted the way you perceive the world of work, and the media you work in?

Our grandfather was a ceramicist and so is our father.

We were never pushed to do ceramics, but our parents always took us to galleries and museums which gave us experience and inspiration. 

I (Chie) always wanted to be an illustrator, and one day, just for fun, decided to apply my illustrations on to ceramics. I realised that this media really worked well for my drawings.

You are both activists as well as artists. Which causes are particularly close to your heart, and how do you address them in your work?

We don’t really consider ourselves activists, but we do hold certain causes close. Animal welfare, for example, is an area we strongly believe in. There is a big problem of abandoned cats and dogs in parts of rural Japan, and we actively look to highlight this issue when possible.

People and animals who are socially vulnerable need help, and not providing it makes our whole society a poorer place. I believe art is here to make our lives richer.

Whose work inspires you at the moment?

At the moment, we are enjoying Matisse, British illustrator Laura Carlin, the Japanese painter and picture book artist Aya Daido, Satoshi Kako, who is also a picture book artist, and many outsider artists.

We know that you enjoy engaging with other disciplines, as well as the visual arts – you’ve designed book and album covers in the past. Are there any books or albums or even films that you’d recommend to our readers? 

We have loved Aya Daido's artwork ever since we saw her exhibition of children's book artwork at a museum in Nagasaki.

Her book called 'Koedo Matsuri' is full of amazing illustrations.

We’d love to hear about a typical day for you both!

A typical day would involve an early morning walk through the mountains with our dogs, with an aim to start working on that day’s current project by 9am.

We work from home, and are lucky enough to have both our drawing studio and ceramic studio next door.

We would usually not stick to a rigid working day, and if the inspiration isn’t there, we will go out and visit friends or a gallery or just go for a walk, and then work into the evening.

Finally – we’re compiling a list of our interviewees’ favourite spaces. Could you tell us about somewhere in Japan or the UK that means a lot to you, or that you have found particularly inspiring?

My (Chie) favourite place in the UK is Vanguard Court in Camberwell, where I used to have a studio. There are many fantastic artists working there and it is a very inspiring place. They have an open studio around Christmas every year.

Our favourite place in Japan is The Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo. They have many beautiful works from unknown artists, and we always go there every time we visit Tokyo.

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