As an artist, and someone who truly puts all heart and soul in the painting, I shouldn't have the need to explain myself or my artwork to anyone, but the fact is that I think I need to give an insight to all my potential customers and people who keep speculating about my work with a frown and ideas that are not quite valid.
I've been a painter all my life, it is my passion, but very rarely did I show my works, so most of people are unaware of it. I always loved the japanese culture, and 7 years ago I crossed my path with the traditional japanese kimono and obi. One day I saw a plain obi for sale, and I thought:
"This obi looks so dull. What is the purpose of it? Is it unfinished somehow?"
Immediately I had the idea that I should purchase it and try to paint something on it and see how would it look like. And so I did, and when I saw how it came out, I knew that I had just did a Pente obi. A Pente obi is a type of obi commonly made in and after WWII, when the japanese did not have money to afford expensive dyes. In that time, most of the women's obi were painted with a ink very similar to acrylics.
I started to neglect my canvas and painting more on obi. I bought original japanese obi from different ages, types and shapes, all of them completely plain as a canvas, and start to recreate what are considered rare/lucky motives, such as animals. I am a Nature and animals' lover, so rabbits, foxes, owls, and other animals are the things I enjoy painting the most. At first I confess, I had no intention of selling them, as I am very attached to all my paintings, but then I noticed that many kimono lovers complained how hard it was to get an obi with a certain motif, and how expensive it was when it appeared. I then decided to sell some, and besides some people were unsure how to value my work, or got confused by what I was offering, 90% of my works sold, most of them private custom orders.
At this time, this become my work as an artist, and in the future I intend to graduate profissionally as a kimono designer and/or artisan. While I am not professional yet, I do mostly paintings that come to my mind or custom orders, and I offer affordable prices, prices that no one can dream of to find in any japanese store. Even so, I've been reading some negative comments on my work constantly poping out, and kept silent all the time, but now I feel the need to answer in a way that people can understand. Most of these comments are complaints about the prices, and others are words undervaluing my work because I am not japanese or because the obi is one thing and the painting is another. Bellow I will try to give the most clear answer to these critics.
Regarding the price of my work:
Before complaining about the price I ask for my obi and kimono, you must first consider this:
- I am not a store or a factory. My items are not mass-made. Each one is one of a kind, and I paint every single one all by hand(no stencils or other helps, just hand and brush).
- The time it's taken for them to be made. Depending on the piece and the details, my works can take usually 2 to 3 months to be finished. I even had some that took me half an year.
- The materials needed for the piece to be made. I have to invest in an original japanese plain kimono or obi, in dyes and other materials. This, and considering that if I make any mistake(as to acidentally spill ink in places that it shouldn't be spilled), the piece will be unusable.
- While you'll have to pay $300 to $500 for an Owl or Rabbit obi in a store such as Ichiroya, an obi that might not be so pretty and not handmade, you can get a custom-made obi from me, that you know is unique in the world, with an extremely rare motif(some of them you can only find once in a life-time in a japanese store), for the steal of $100 to $250.
Regarding the fact I am not japanese(artisan):
I understand that people might value more the kimono or obi of a japanese artisan than the ones of a western painter. It is a collector thing, wanting something japanese made by a japanese person, something genuinely japanese. I truly understand that, but I'm not even trying to compete with that. I am an European artist that paints on genuine obi, that's all. And this is all I want to be and be known for. If you wish to purchase something from a real japanese artisan, certainly my works are not for you. I don't think my work should be inferior(or superior) than a japanese's one, I think it is just unique. My customers are those who look for bold and uniqueness in everything.
Regarding my paintings on obi:
It is very simple, as I stated above:
I paint on genuine japanese pieces, that can be vintage, antique, or modern. I acquire pieces that are completely plain, and give them my touch. Therefore, the piece can be simultaneously vintage and modern(the obi is vintage, and my paint on it is recent). Also, my designs can be made, or not, in japanese style. I sometimes recreate some styles, but I paint mostly my own intentionally. As an artist I wish to remain myself and give my essence to my work.
This is the best way I can answer to doubts that some people might have. Most of the artists have to go through this, but certainly it would be a lot smoother if people would not be so judgemental before knowing any facts and care to know what they are looking at.
I hope I had been clear enough in this post. I will continue to work on obi and kimono and to improve my art, and I hope that anyone who wants a custom piece from me knows exactly what piece they are getting and if it is the correct piece for them.
Thank you so much for reading until the end,
I wish everyone a Happy New Year!