Interview with Kohei Yoshida – Metal Smith educated at Tokyo University of the Arts

By Mike Sullivan

Please introduce yourself and your background. Can you also tell us about your studies at the Tokyo University of Art?

My name is Kohei Yoshida and when I studied at the Tokyo University of the Arts I was focused on metal. Actually this university was the first Art University in Japan and the craft course that I took has three metal departments, metal carving, metalsmithing and casting. I was in the department of metalsmithing.

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Please tell us about your work.

Every year I make two kinds of work for exhibitions that are open to the general public.

My work can include mechanical mechanisms, for example they have sensors and motors, and if the sensor detects someone it will start to move.

Probably it may be strange as a handicraft. It is probably be better to call them sculptures rather than crafts. I think that the Japanese metal craft history is different from the European metal craft history. In this respect I believe that Japanese metal crafts have a wider range.

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How did the Kohei Yoshida Metal Works brand start?

Well, first of all I started in metal work when I was at the Tokyo University of the Arts. So, after I had decided on my course, I had to study basic skills for about two years.

As you can imagine this was literally hammering hammering hammering hammering so everyday. Sometimes it was quite tedious, but through this way I studied many things about metal work, and after I finished my study it was just natural to start my own brand.

Can you explain a bit about Japanese metal techniques?

There are many kinds of alloy which are a feature of Japanese metal.

So, for example, there is a metal called “syakudo” which is a mix of 3-8% of gold with copper. The metal colour changes to black when it is boiled by chemicals and this black color actually looks like a crow’s feather.

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Where do your ideas for your work come from? Where do you find the inspiration for your designs?

I like Japanese mystery novels, so I get a lot of images from there. I think having the image is very important in respect of designing.

How long does it take to design and make a particular work? Can you give a short summary of the processes that go into each one?

This can really depend on the particular work. For example, a big one needs about three months.

It incorporates creating the image, planning out the work and then actually making it. If it requires a lot of details, then I consequently have to do more things and it takes up more time.

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What is your most popular item?

I have noticed that silverware is often very popular.

For someone who wishes to take up this kind of career, what kind of advice would you give them?

I would say there are two main points, the first one is that you should never tell a lie to oneself. The second point is that you should never make coarse work.

To what extent do you draw upon your Japanese heritage for your work?

I am not conscious of it. Although, I think that I am still carrying it within me even if I’m not conscious of it. If I lived in a foreign country I think this might change.

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What do traditional Japanese crafts mean to you?

I think that it is a treasure in which we have got the wisdom of our ancestors.

We have to continue making crafts for the future. However, it is also important to add new elements, of course.

Do you have any exhibitions or events coming up?

There will be an exhibition in the Karuizawa Senju Hiroshi Art Museum in Karuizawa in Japan.

http://www.kshm-event-shop.info/gallery/

You can also see more about myself, my work and my future events on my website:

http://www.kohei-yoshida.sakura.ne.jp/uk.html

Finally, any last words for anyone interested in Japanese crafts?

Traditional handicrafts of Japan have many wonderful things. They will let you know more and more, they will make you want to have more crafts.

They will allow you to live a more wonderful life.

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