Sometimes you need a sign you are on the right path, when you work primarily online it can feel as though you are throwing your art into a void, a flash of light and then it’s swallowed by the cacophony. While other times the work you share ends up connecting you with people in really amazing and unexpected ways.
Recently I posted an essay about artist Mari Shimizu whose haunting sculptures and incredible artwork have long been a source of inspiration for me, and when she got in touch about it I was astonished! She agreed to an interview for my blog and I am excited to share this glimpse into her process and art below.
How did you begin creating art dolls? What drew you to them as a medium initially?
Since my childhood, Japan has been full of cute, Kawaii character goods and was very different from dolls for children overseas. At that time, Japan longed mainly for Western antiques and was introduced to Japan including dolls. Overseas dolls were more real. I was not satisfied with Japanese childish things. I started making things that I wanted to get more realistic.
How would you describe your artwork and style?
Initially, I made fashion dolls. However, I became poor, and I began to think that fashion dolls were not worthy of those who could cost. Also, I thought that competing with rich people by creating fashion dolls was overwhelmingly disadvantageous, as my own identity was not reflected at all. So I sought a style that could express my environment and backbone.
I saw you combine antique elements, fibers and animal hair in the creation of your dolls? How did that begin? What excites you about using different elements to build your pieces?
Japan has abundant materials for products, and we can get anything if you spend money.
In my childhood, Japan was very rich, but I was poor and could not buy everything. Many of Japan’s rich products are mainly products that imitate American wealth, and there seemed to be many of the same. So I feel the value of a small number of things that do not exist, materials born from life, animal hair and silk.
What sorts of themes and stories inspire your work? I noticed you have some beautiful Alice in Wonderland pieces in particular. Is there something about that story that resonates with you as an artist specifically? Are there other myths or themes you like to explore in your art?
Alice in Wonderland is fascinated by being an absurd drama with a girl as the main character, depicted in an era when human activities are automated in the industrial revolution.
I interpret that the innocent and pure existence of a girl is a story that fights adult absurdity over time.
Human emotions and growth are inherently absurd. It is animals and nature that tell us the truth, not formulas. Alice in Wonderland is drawn through the eyes of a girl whose world is still undifferentiated, and she can listen to animal conversations and freely change the size and presence of objects. It is a theme that always has new discoveries that break our fixed concept.
I also like the anthropomorphic animals depicted in medieval Celtic. These expressions are rarely seen in Christian art.
How do you find inspiration and keep motivated to create new things?
I have traveled to Europe, India, Islamic region, Asian region, North America, etc. until now, but every time I encounter completely new value. There are various gods and religions that suit various cultures. And I don’t want to limit the value of one thing without knowing them. Therefore, I am always studying the history and religion of unknown areas.
Could you describe the process of creating one of your incredible dolls? Is each doll sculpted from scratch? They are so detailed and lush, they must take a long time to create?
First of all, we will collect materials that are perfect for your emotions and how to express emotions and images that do not become your own words.
These are some impressions that I have been thinking for years.
Then look for paintings, music, etc. that have similar meanings. After the image is materialized, production often takes about one to two weeks.
The fashion for your dolls is really intricate and lovely, are there particular historical eras you like to pull from when creating their apparel?
I like non-functional costumes when the costumes were still made by hand. I especially like Renaissance and Victorian.
Since the days of wearing gorgeous costumes, humans are suppressed by customs and feel the spirit of seeking freedom from crampedness. In addition, we are interested in the national costumes from China to Russia.
Do you have any upcoming shows or books you would like people to know about? Where can fans follow your new work online?
Thank you so much to Mari Shimizu for participating in this interview!