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Japanese Sand Art

Dec 5, 2011

by pixelita

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Konnichiwa! I’m Elena, part of the International Etsy Team focused on the Japanese Etsy community. I am based in Tokyo and I love being able to support artists in Japan looking to connect with Etsy’s global audience. I’m very excited to announce that the artwork for December’s Twitter Artist Series was created by the Japanese Sunae artist, Naoko Kikuchi, who goes by the name of Naoshi.

Naoshi has been drawing with shimmering colored sand since 2004 and has participated in a wide variety of art projects and exhibitions in the U.S., Italy, France, Switzerland, and Korea. Cleaning her sand-covered floor is one of her daily routines.

Be sure to check out Naoshi’s Etsy shop or her website, which is packed with vibrant and unique sand painted work.

What is “Sunae” and what are some of its unique characteristics?
Sunae (pronounced suna’é) is a Japanese word meaning “sand painting.” The artist begins by drawing a design onto a special sticker sheet. Following this, colors are applied one at a time by cutting out and peeling off sections of the illustration and covering them with colored sand. It can be difficult, as there is no way to re-do or touch up a mistake, but the happy sense of satisfaction at seeing the finished piece is well worth the pressure! Shiny, colored sand is truly beautiful and I’d like everyone to see the original pieces, not just the digital images.

How did you begin working with Sunae?
I came across a shop selling a Sunae starter kit and recalled making sand art as a child. When I first tried my hand at Sunae it was so much fun: feeling the texture of the sand and seeing the finished piece made me ecstatic. With the thought of, “I’ll make an even better one next!” always in my head I continued to create, and before I knew it seven years had passed and I had become “the Sunae person.”

Tell us a bit about the design you made for Etsy’s Twitter Artist Series.
I keep my sand in small bottles. They’re cute, but if just one tips over the rest tumble like bowling pins and I’ve got sand everywhere! I took my inspiration for this piece from this not-infrequent event.

In addition, the year is drawing to a close, and when I look back on 2011 the first thing that comes to mind is the March disaster in northeastern Japan. My anxiety at not knowing when a disaster could occur caused me to rethink my life, and I felt the importance of the bonds between people.

After the disaster there have been charity exhibitions in Japan and throughout the world, and I was moved by the strength of all the people who acted through art. I wanted to share my overflowing feelings of thanks to people the world over through this little bottle girl.

I will be holding a Sunae workshop in the disaster-affected areas next year. It’s a very small thing, but I hope I can put a smile on at least one person’s face. I’ll keep this feeling of gratitude close to my heart.

You are based in Yokohama, which is about 30 minutes from Tokyo by train. Could you share some of your favorite places in Tokyo or Yokohama with our readers?

My life as an illustrator began with a single book I picked up at Village Vanguard in Shimokitazawa. They have a spectacular lineup of books, manga, zakka, stationery, CDs and more. It’s the kind of fun shop you can’t leave without buying at least one thing.

I also love stopping by Niji-garou (Rainbow Gallery) every time I’m in Kichijoji. I always find inspiration in the shop full of well-designed zakka and great gallery exhibitions. Kichijoji is a popular town often rated the “#1 place I want to live” in Tokyo.

Chano-ma (Tea nook) is a cafe in the Minatomirai area of Yokohama. They have mattress-sized sofas that let you relax as if you were in your own home, and the sweets are delicious! Minatomirai at night is beautiful when viewed from the hot foot baths at the onsen (hot spring) nearby.

From where do you get your inspiration?
Recently I’ve been hooked on the work of Jon Classen. I’m always struck by his imagination-stirring backgrounds, the expressions of his animals and his world view that places importance on space rendered simply. Aside from that, I often go to live music performances, watch comedy routines on DVD, and I read manga daily. These three habits form an integral element of my work.

What is your dream?
To spread the fun of Sunae around the world through my work!

Find Naoshi’s work on all of Etsy’s Twitter profiles: @Etsy@EtsyFR@EtsyUK@EtsyDE,@EtsyNL @EtsyJP and @Etsy.

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