Buttons Redux

IMG_7442Hitoko Fujisaki was so busy making buttons for the Button Inspiration show at the AC Gallery that she did what all of us creatives do when we are crunched for time and money ー she recycled some of the buttons to make new art. She also persuaded two of her friends to make a few more in glass and wood. And she got Warabi’s city hall involved in the organization of a group show in one of the old warehouses which has been turned into a Warabi Municipal Museum along Nakasendo, Warabi’s equivalent of the Silk Road during the Edo era.

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Nakasendo, also known as the Kisokaido, is a bit of a walk fromIMG_7408 Warabi station. Only a few old buildings remain from its booming textile past. One is used like a community centre, but this one is used as a municipal museum to promote the history and culture of the area. Since Warabi is supposedly Japan’s smallest city, that is quite an undertaking for them. They usually have a large poster or banner outside to promote their current show. The signage is unobtrusive, and you might walk by it if  you did not know what to look for. You have been forewarned! Japan has a lot of these small museums that fly under the radar of the main guidebooks, and some of them are run by individuals. Most are usually dusty and filled with photocopies mounted onto boards. That is what I expected, and boy, was I ever surprised.

Textiles by Hitoko Fujisaki on 2nd Floor
Textiles by Hitoko Fujisaki on 2nd Floor

The museum has been completely redone inside and has two floors of spacious showrooms. (I skipped the smaller room that had the permanent exhibit on local history.) The second floor has display cases along each wall.

Sculpture by Den Shirou
Sculpture by Den Shirou at Museum Entrance
Sculptures bu Shirou Den on 1st Floor
Sculptures by Shirou Den on 1st Floor
Glass by Shouhei Yasuda and Textiles by Hitoko Fujisaki on 2nd Floor
Glass by Shouhei Yasuda and Textiles by Hitoko Fujisaki on 2nd Floor

Fujisaki recommended that Shirou Den and Shouhei and Yasuda be included in the show even though Yasuda lives in Kitakyushu. City officials went down south to Kyushu to meet Yasuda and see his artwork. That is how dedicated they were to the group show featuring the textiles, wood, and glass of Hitoko Fujisaki, Shirou Den, and Shouhei Yasuda.

Shirou Den’s (田志郎) large wooden sculptures filled the first floor. Everything, including the room, was much larger than I expected.

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Can you see bonsai for which Saitama is famous? Can you see a tsunami wave, like the one that hit northeastern Japan in 2011?

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I love the design of this box. It would be great with a game board on top or larger as a coffee table in the living room, don’t you think?

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Buttons by Hitoko Fujisaki

Remember those buttons that Fujisaki made for Button Inspiration? A large display case near the office contained one oversized button by each artist. Fujisaki’s of course was a handwoven, hand-dyed textile piece mounted on corrugated cardboard.

Den Shirou
Button by Shirou Den

Den carved a dark circle of wood as his homage to buttons.

Button by Shouhei Yasuda
Button by Shouhei Yasuda

Yasuda’s button was made from sheet glass. It is beautiful on it’s own but wouldn’t it make a great platter? I love beautiful things that are also utilitarian. More of Shouhei Yasuda’s glass pieces were on the second floor. Instead of blown glass, he told me that he usually uses sheets of glass to make his pieces.

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I am in love with this glassware! i have never seen anything like it before. He also made the little glass table on the right.

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Remember that these were made from sheet glass. I assume the sheets were heated, hammered or put into a mould, and then cut into puzzle pieces. Does that sound right? Cleverly different from the usual blown globes of glass.

IMG_7429All of this is made from glass. That’s right! The ashtray,  the cigarette, the matchbox, the matchsticks, the cigarette ash, and the filters on the tip of the cigarettes. All glass. He is an interesting guy with serious skills.

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This is also made from glass. I told you that he is an interesting guy.

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Push buttons? He was told to make a button, remember? Don’t you want to push the button?

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Fujisaki must have enjoyed making buttons. She used many of them on wire stems in this piece entitled, “Yorokobi (Joy)“. I know that she also likes the cardboard bases that she gets a friend to make. I wonder if the friend that makes these is Shirou Den? This is only a theory of mine.

IMG_7420 Don’t you think this looks like a centerpiece? Would you use it as one or keep it locked up in a safe place if you owned it?

hitoko fujisaki

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Look familiar? A few items appeared in her earlier show called Kitchen at the AC Gallery.

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This time she included a detailed diagram to explain what each section was made from and where the earth used to colour the threads was sourced from. Most of it was dyed from soils originating in Kyoto but section 5 used soil from Okinawa and section 8 from Kagoshima in southern Japan. She used bamboo, hemp, and cotton threads.

She also included other samples to show what the fibres looked like in earlier stages of her process.

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This soil from Kyoto creates a yellowish colour.

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This one is already woven, but this particular soil from a different part of Kyoto creates a darker or blacker colour.

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This was a much more complex piece to commemorate 3-11, the day when the Tohoku area of Japan was struck by a gigantic earthquake, a monstrous tsunami, and a nuclear disaster. Fujisaki did the kimono fabric in beige, and her sister, Ms Nakahara, did the detailed embroidery inside. It was next to impossible to photograph in the case.

Everything, from start to finish, was a good surprise. The gallery was much larger and better designed than expected, the show was much larger with many more pieces than I expected, and the support from city hall was amazing. They even printed a catalogue for the show that they gave away for free. I have been to many shows in the past two years at minor and major galleries, private and commercial, including many that were intensively advertised. This event was more memorable than many of those. This is definitely a gallery to keep an eye on, and the artists are worthy of greater note as well.

Care to come in from the outside for a nice chat?