Michihiro Sato – jewelry with fragile design

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Dear Mr Sato, konichiwa! During my research for the series of articles based on paper arts, I found your awesome creations. I think I want a piece of every single piece of jewelry that you have ever created :). I am eager to find out some tricks about your creative process. We want to know you better and admire your beautiful work.

Please tell us something about you and how did you discover your talent.                

In the middle of the 80’s, I was a student at the faculty of art education in Japan, and became to be interested in the jewelry like a wearable small sculpture. So I went to Germany to research the jewelry after the graduation. After all I stayed in Germany for about 16 years and in 2004 I came back to Japan. This experience abroad caused me to use paper for my jewelry work. I have made paper jewelry since the end of 90’s. Now I’m working as a jewelry artist and also as a teacher in Japan. I don’t think that I have a talent. I’m awkward and it takes a long time before I understand something. Maybe it would be my advantage that I became aware of myself as a Japanese by learning different way of thinking  abroad, and that I could have continued what I’m interested in.  

I think the majority of paper arts were discovered and developed in Japan. Is it true that the most experienced artists come from here?

I’m not sure if it is true, but the fact that we have many opportunities to understand various meanings of paper empirically in our daily life, might have a little relation to it.

Due to your country`s tradition you also chose to work with paper?

I began to work with paper probably due to my yearning for my country when I lived in Germany.  And I guess that the matter of tradition would belong to it.

Can you describe for us your technique? 

At first, I accumulate papers and flatten one side, and then I glue this side. And I cut it out a certain shape. In this phase, I use chisel, engraving knife, usual paper knife, or fret saw according to the shape.  The shape cut out is rolled against the glued side and both edges are glued. There is, of course, know-how, but no difficult technique.

How can you turn something so delicate as paper into wearable masterpieces?

I think that jewelry would be the sign to indicate who the occupant of body is, and that it involves one’s sense of value or beauty. And it concludes as a jewelry by going with the act of wearing. My pieces made from paper are the visualization of my sense for value or beauty relating to the impermanence of worldly things, and it would be nice for me that people could sympathize with the preciousness of things in our surroundings because of its impermanence by wearing.

What kind of paper do you use? Is it special?

I often use the paper of magazine, catalogue, or booklet, which I found in my surroundings. They are normally not special, but I select each of them carefully.  

Do you use other materials except paper?

I often use brass, silver or copper.  These materials forced me to resist by handling in comparison with paper, and I’m interested in the relationship between the image coming from the resistance and the image from the contrary. And I would like to manage to allow ambivalent images, like as something impermanence and permanence, to coexist in a piece. The idea comes from the philosophy of Buddhism explaining the simultaneity of permanence (to be dead = latent form of life) and impermanence (to be alive = manifested form of life), and it is interesting for me.  

Do you harden the jewelry for endurance?

At the beginning, I used the paper as it is, because I focused my mind on the idea of that everything is changeable. Fragileness or sensibility of paper is suitable for me to reflect the idea.  But in the meantime I became to think various ways to prevent the paper from water damage.

I saw that most of your work is with white paper. Why?

This  is related to my previous answer. Now I often use lacquer, so there are many pieces with color.  At the beginning I often used lacquer as a material for waterproofing of paper, but now also for the interest in color or pattern itself.

What inspires you in your work?

We are surrounded by many materials with innumerable textures created under various conditions and circumstances. To see and touch texture of material would often become to be a motivation to make something for me.  

What do you like creating the most?

I like drawing with materials without thinking what it is. This is like children’s play and it is for me a repository of creativity.  

The shape comes naturally or do you have a design in mind when you start?

In the case of experimental work, I think a great deal about what happens by contacting with materials in working process, and the shape often comes naturally. But in the case of a series of works, I examine the details or plan the perspective of the work before I start.

Where can we find your work?

There are some galleries showing my works at all time in Europe, for example Lesley Craze gallery (London/UK) or Marzee gallery (Nijmegen/the Netherlands). Anyway, I often take part in exhibitions abroad, so I announce where I show my work in my web site.

In the end I will ask you THE question that started this quest for promoting paper jewelry: Why would anyone wear paper jewelry? 

I don’t know the reason exactly. But it is said that ”wearer of jewelry would have different reason about why they wear” *, so that there would be the ground where paper jewelry will be accepted, I guess.

* Reference; Jewel mandala in “Jewelry Concepts and Technology” by Oppi Untracht  

How can we convince women that these jewels are safe to wear?

Assuming that the wearer’s motivation why they wear jewelry is so different, and that the appearance of jewelry would become to be in various ways, and furthermore that the meanings of the word “jewelry” would be extended, I’m wondering if I could answer for your question of how. And about what paper jewels are safe to wear, it seems to me, it might be safe for body on the one hand, but it might be not safe for mind on the other hand in the sense that it would cause us to lose our emotional equilibrium due to the fragileness of material. And of course, the latter would not always be the reason to avoid to wear, as we are so different. I think it would be useful for us, regardless of gender, to re-recognize the movement in our own mind by encountering something in our daily life, and to notice what is important for us, in other words, what is jewel for us. I hope that many people find out their own way of involvement in jewelry.

Thank you for the virtual tour of your work. With your acceptance I would like to present a gallery of your creations to our readers.

Mr Sato, Domo Arigato Gozaimashita !

If you want to find out more about my activity, here is my website.

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