Colleen and Shoichi Sakurai
A farmers grain sifter, a broken Edo-period amor breastplate and an old rusted iron drainpipe may not have much in common, but those objects have all become unlikely elements in the imaginative works created by Colleen and Shoichi Sakurai.
Shoichi Sakurai was born in 1962, and grew up the son of a master "tategu-shokunin,"who crafted kumiko-shoji and ranma in the old downtown district of Tokyo, Japan. Uninspired, however, by traditional japanese crafts, Shoi's focus was on the good, old, rock- and-roll days of the American 50's. He loved it. He lived it. After many years of vintage clothing, rock-a-billy music, a masterfully sculpted duck tail, and the pursuit of other careers, including hotel man, musician and club manager, he turned his obsession into a business. Flying between Tokyo and California, he collected and sold vintage American clothing and memorabilia, and after a time, and great distance, he developed, to his surprise, a growing appreciation and pride for his homeland. Also, around this time, he met, who was later to be his wife, an American jazz singer who had a fascination with japanese washi paper. Those two events proved to be the turning point of his life. For their honeymoon, they traveled three months throughout Asia, and were deeply inspired by the countries unique cultures and native crafts. When they returned to Japan their interests in the Japanese arts became a passion and they began to create their own work. That was 18 years ago and they have never looked back. Shoi and Colleen live with their son in a 100 year old temple house, filled with their own work and found treasures. Shoi's interests include collecting old Edo Fire Fighters sashiko coats and other old japanese textiles, with which he designs and hand sews Colleen's, and his own, clothing.
As a self taught artist, Shoi's work has evolved along with his love and passion of old things. A key element in Shoi' s work is the asethetic concept of wabisabi, in which the beauty of an object derives from, or is enhanced by, some flaw in it, or by a patina of age. A pieces past history can be found in its imperfections and can add to its personal sense of integrity and intrinsic beauty. Things long abandoned and considered without value, like old tools, utilitarian objects, and found materials, are "resurrected" and, with Colleen's hand treated washi, and Shoi's inventiveness, are given new life, new direction. The Sakurai's work offers a shift in perception, where a different angle or a different view of the object can be celebrated.
Shoi has often been referred to as a "recycle artist" and though he has an aversion to labels, he accepts this one proudly. To illustrate the company's dedication to recycling, Shoi was commissioned by the Italian "life style" company, De'Longhi, to create two large illuminated sculptures for their showroom/restaurant, in Tokyo,using their recycled appliances. To further promote the concept of "recycled art" he designed and fabricated, for the same company, an exclusive line of jewelry, made from their aluminum power blenders. Working with newly recycled materials is a departure from his usual old metal and aged wood but the concept and the creative process is the same. Don't waste. Recreate. Redefine. Life, and value, doesn't have to be measured in "what was."