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91 Glebe Point Road

Glebe NSW 2037

P (02) 9552 2833

F (02) 9571 1899

Opening Hours:

Tues - Sunday,

11am - 6pm.

Yoshiko Ito

Yoshiko Ito Image


Yoshiko ItoImage


Yoshiko Ito Image

A famous Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima said "There is nothing original in Japan; but it is the emptiness of a crucible that absorbs everything from the outside and transforms it into something totally different. The force of transformation is Japan." When I read this quote, I thought this is exactly what I am doing through this research the crucible of Japan has provided a melting pot for my thoughts and explorations. I have been trying to learn the history of my own culture and through traditional metal techniques explain these histories.

During previous research I have explored Japanese metal techniques as well as the History of Japan during the periods of the Edo to Meiji. This introduction to research made me realize how little I know of my own culture. I was drawn to the fine craftsmanship of Japanese metal work, especially the use of copper in their work.

The theme of my work was titled “In search of my origin”; I used the traditional form of Origami, Inro, & Japanese techniques like Mokume-gane, Inlay, and Niiro to make my art.

Throughout those experiments & research, I found myself responding to the beauty & versatility of copper. I wanted to do further investigations into copper and understand how Japanese craftsmen use copper in their work.

One of technique that is used in Hiroshima is called “Dou-chuu”. It means “Copper-bug”. In the beginning of Edo period when a feudal lord visited one of the copper craftsmen while he was working on his craft the lord was amazed by how absorbed in his work the craftsman was, and said it almost looks as if he was small bugs on the copper.

I can really relate to the mentality of the craftsmen when I am facing the metal, especially when I am hammering the copper, texturing, forming or shaping. It is laborious & often it can be very painful process but I often find myself in a state of trance.

The most well known Japanese metalwork is associated with sword making and sword-furniture. Sword-furniture makers, like most Japanese decorative artists draw on natural strongly influenced by Japanese Shinto-ism & Buddhism .A Tsuba the round decorative sword guard can tell so many stories. In addition to the research of Tsuba, I started to look into “Kamon”, the Japanese family crest. Similarly Kamon can also tell many stories. Each family, each clan has it’s own “Kamon”. As clan & family expanded & separated, they changed their Kamon design but still used same themes or patterns. Kamon has changed as the families have changed however the traditions & the line of family tree were kept by their symbols. Many of Kamon are sight specific as well. From their design & pattern, it can tell which part of Japan they are originally from. The others are work related or based on the kanji of family name.

Until I stared to research Kamon, I had assumed my family Kamon was the design of Wisteria because of my family name. However, it is the design of “Paulownia”. It is one of popular design in Japan because the imperial family’s Kamon is the design of “Paulownia”.

Those histories of Kamon lead me to history of my own family. My family was originally from Hokkaido. My grandfather took his family to Karafuto Island to seek better opportunities. He was the head of a village and had a great life there. My mother always said she remember wearing a beautiful Kimono all the time. However, their lives turned completely upside down when the WWII ended. Karafuto was taken over by Russia & they had to return to Hokkaido without anything. She was only five years old when that happen but she remembers the day very clearly. They were in the tiny boat with not much clothing on.

Her life after that day was unspeakable. She hardly mentioned it before until now. She could not tell me in detail because it was very emotional memories for her but she told me she was a servant to other families to help her own family. She was five years old and in the harsh Hokkaido winters worked in the snow to clear the pathways.

She believes her life is nothing but hardship, hard work. But I see beauty & strong spirit in my mother. Maybe that’s the one of reason I am drawn to the craftsman’s laborious work process. Those hours, days & years they spend to make their work and those process makes beautiful art works. Every single mark of hammer, tools that they use tells a story. Like every single day my mother has spent to survive to have a better life. Like many of us do.

Mutsuo Takahashi wrote Japanese mirror in Shinto Shrine often misconstrued by people as object of worship since it is usually find in Shinto Shrine. However it is not religious object but it reflects something sacred. The mirror was introduced from mainland & made of polished metal, which will unavoidably oxidise. It doesn’t reflect the images as common mirror we use. Reflections in a metal mirror are dim and blurry therefore it reflects back changed images. Takahashi linked metal mirror with Mishima’s crucible since both absorb something from outside and transform it to something that related to their new perspective or environment.

My challenge is to make artwork using copper & transform it to something that speaks, and becomes a portrait for my mother’s story. The object will be, formed & textured by hammering which reflects labour intensive life.

I am going to experiment how the colour, texture, size & weight affect the language of object. Yoshiko Ito