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Diploma 2017 in the ADBK Munich (5/5): Emi Fukuda

Diploma 2017 in the ADBK Munich (5/5): Emi Fukuda

“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works, if from the head, almost nothing.” – Marc Chagall

Emi Fukuda and I have a similar approach to our creative processes. Our work doesn’t have its starting point with a rational idea we want to express or a defined statement that we want to make. Emi and I are “emotional makers”. We let our pieces evolve in an intuitive process, which embraces spontaneity and experimental play. This is just how creating comes most naturally to us. Emi wrote in her artist statement: “I like to think that my works are not made, but in a sense, they grow into existence.” Having found the perfect word to embody this “organic” way of creating, Emi titled her diploma show Flow.

The difficulties this way of creating present to me is that it is much harder to talk about emotional rather than rational and intellectual processes. How do you talk about things that came from a place within you, that you yourself might not really understand? Which leads me to the question: Does an artist have to talk and write about her/his work?

In general, I would say that it is completely ok if an artist does not talk and write about his/her work, no matter for what reasons. The work itself should do most of the talking anyhow in my point of view. But: I realized that not writing and talking about the work is limiting an artist´s possibilities to promote the work significantly. In the past, I avoided circumstances which required words of mine about my work. But after a while, there was just no way around it anymore. The more I managed to get my work out there, the more often it was requested that I talk and write about it. The truth is that being an artist is not only about creating anymore, artists today have to be multitalented and super-creative on many levels. In our digitised, globalised world, artists have to be some kind of all-round performers, and if you have a way with words, that is definitely an ability that will prove most helpful on countless occasions.

Unfortunately, the ambition to capture the audience sometimes happens at the expense of the artists’ authenticity. On several occasions, it occurred to me that I was sitting in an artist talk, and the artist took away the magic of the work for me by trying too hard: a sophisticated, intellectual approach that seemed forced, a cascade of historic references or gimmicky notions…. Just to make the point that words don’t necessarily help the work.

So, if you really don’t want or can’t write and talk about your work, why not let somebody else do it for you? This will happen sooner or later anyhow by art historians, journalists, curators, gallery owners etc. I gained good and not so good experiences with that. In the best case the writer has the knowledge, the imagination and the sensitivity to write something that is doing justice to the artworks. Some people wrote texts about my work, which really were great, much better than anything I could have ever written. Some planted misguiding conclusions, which were picked up by others and developed further. One interview with a Dutch guy went so totally the wrong way that in the end I asked him to not publish anything. I felt that he completely misunderstood my work and that this interview would be only counterproductive.

When I began to understand that there was no way for me of not writing and talking about my work, I started to put my work and myself (as an artist) under the looking glass. Which kind of words beside technical details could I find to make my work more approachable? What could increase rather than diminish the expression of my pieces, but still keep my authenticity as an “emotional maker”? I am still looking for answers while I am trying out different approaches.
For the catalogue of the exhibition, Where Blue Hides After Dark in Sienna Gallery, I wrote a kind fairy tale about the colour Blue, which derived from a dream I had. I felt that worked really well. Lately, I have been writing short stories and a couple of song lyrics in relation to my work. All this might not explain the work in the common sense, but it adds another layer, offers another angle. The good thing was that the more I was trying to find solutions for this lack of words, the more I really did understand my work and working process. I figured out that even though I work mainly through my emotions, there are some rational aspects about it nevertheless. And this made it easier for me to write and talk about my pieces in a theoretic way of course. For the “emotional maker”, this process might take more time, but it is surely worth the effort. After all, working spontaneously, intuitively and through your emotions is also just a concept, which can be pinned down.

So, finally back to Emi’s diploma show (sorry, Emi…). Emi normally prefers not to talk or write about her work, but for this blogpost, Emi agreed to put some aspects of her work into words.

Carina: Why don’t you like to talk about your work?

Emi: I want to ignore everything to do with a concept. Like a child, I emphasize the joyful and playful experiment. I want to be almost out of control, touch the primitive part of me… creation should be free! I want people to be totally open about it when they see my work and maybe find a similarly and free playful approach to it. Curiosity is the most important thing when you make or look at art.

Carina: Tell me a bit more about the pieces that you displayed in your diploma show titled Flow.

Emi: Casting is an important process for me now, and for the diploma show, I focused on the casting of aluminum. I made countless experiments, most of which did not work out. I took much time and risk for that. First, I used wax to create the forms and then built moulds with plaster. Then the metal is cast. I love the process of casting, because it is pure. The metal is poured and structured in the moment. It then emerges in a new shape… like a life itself.

Carina: From where do you get the ideas for your shapes? What inspires you?

Emi: The ideas for my work always come from memories, from something I experienced, a moment of its own life. For example, the ring titled Fragile is about a hurtful memory. I created an organic shape from transparent glass and cracked it to express the feeling of fragility. It was my first attempt in casting glass. I feel there is a lot of potential in this technique for me.

The idea for the necklace Portrait came from a portrait picture of mine. While I was looking at it, I recalled some experiences in my life, positively and negatively. Some chapters of my life. Then I created the necklace with these feelings and memories lingering. I built the shape of it with several wax blocks dynamically to express the accumulation of life experience.

In the brooch titled Flying to… I wanted to visualize the theme of changing and movement. This piece was formed beginning from the ground, grew and then morphed into butterfly-like creatures. The swarm of butterflies imply harmony, movement and the flow of time in space. Then they move to a new world of freedom and destiny. The base of the piece was formed in layers like sediment. It is like a mediator who connects the wearer to society and to the world.

Carina: You are also drawing a lot and you showed one of your drawings in your diploma show. Is drawing a fixed part of your creating process?

Emi: Yes. It is a very important part of my work. I think with the drawings I express another angle of my work, similar to what you do with your songs. My ideas come always from my daily life, and then I draw quickly. I draw normally just some simple sketches with pencil and water colour. A simple process can be more specific and stronger. I feel water colour best suits the way to connect to my jewellery pieces. Drawing with water seems like a pure process to me, similar to the pouring of metal.

Carina: What are your plans for the future?

Emi: I am in Japan now and will probably stay for a year or so. Then I will choose the best place where I should be. I would like to be here in Japan to absorb or re-understand my own culture to develop my work further. I was away for over 10 years and so many things have changed. It shocks me, but it is also nice to experience it.

Carina: Thanks, Emi!

Sool Park wrote a sensitive text for Emi, which she handed out in her diploma show. It starts like this: “Everything flows- even those things, which seem hard and immobile. So, what happens when the hard is flowing? Does it lose its hardness? Or is it rather showing its inner life, which never was hard?”

Emi Fukuda (born in 1980 in Osaka, Japan) graduated in 2013 from the Osaka University of Arts, Japan, as a Bachelor of Fine Arts. From 2007 until 2009, she studied at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, in the gold-and silversmithing department and then from 2012 -2017 at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich, Germany, in the jewellery department.

1 Emi Fukuda: Invitation card for diploma show Flow, Photo: Emi Fukuda
2 Emi Fukuda: Diploma show Flow, Munich, 2017; Photo: Masayuki Nagata
3 Emi Fukuda: Diploma show Flow, Munich, 2017; Photo: Carina Shoshtary
4 Emi Fukuda: Diploma show Flow, Munich, 2017; Photo: Carina Shoshtary
5 Emi Fukuda: Portrait, Necklace, 2016; Aluminium, string; 6,5 cm x 8,5cm x 1,5 cm; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
6 Emi Fukuda: Flying to…, Brooch, 2016; Aluminium, steel wire; 7,0 cm x 5,5 cm x 3,5 cm; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
7 Emi Fukuda: Fragile, Ring, 2016; Aluminium, glass; 3,0 cm x 3,5 cm x 3,0 cm; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
8 Emi Fukuda: Diploma show Flow, Munich, 2017; Photo: Masayuki Nagata
9 Emi Fukuda: Diploma show Flow, Munich, 2017; Photo: Carina Shoshtary

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Moths and other hexapods- With artwork by Mielle Harvey


I have an ambivalent relationship with moths.
As a child when I would come home, having visiting my Iranian father every second weekend, the first thing my German mother would do was throw all the contents of my bag into the washing machine. She was afraid that the enduring cohabiters of my father’s apartment would conquer her territory too. True enough, sometimes one or two moths would lazily flutter out of my overnight bag, sending my mother into hectic jumping fits in pursuit of the enemy. Back then I didn’t quite understand why there was so much fuss over these small, harmless looking creatures but I naturally began to eye them more and more suspiciously in my father’s lodgings. My mother claimed that they travelled inside the parcels my father received from his family in Iran, which were filled with Persian halva, sohan (a kind of saffron candy), salted and roasted pistachios and pumpkin seeds, dried black lime, spices and other essential components of an Iranians’ eating habits. I don’t know where the moths actually came from, but they were indeed everywhere. Sometimes my father would set a few of his singing birds free for a while to hunt them down, but there was always a fresh supply.

Today I still get a whiff of a panic attack when I spy a Cloth or Food Moth in our apartment, however I can also enjoy the beauty of some other species of the same kind too.
Early this summer I found a huge, odd pupae whilst I was on my hunt for slugs in the garden. Having inspected the curious creature, I laid it back under a leaf. The next day I went to see if it was still there and when I discovered the pupae to be empty, I saw this beautiful fella sitting on a flower just 10 cm from where it had hatched. It sat there on the exact same spot for two days and two nights and then it was gone.



The colours were amazing, such a vibrant, almost neon, pink which perfectly combined with a soft mossy green. The drawing on its back was very special too and I couldn’t help but wonder why nature had made the creature this way. It is called the Elephant Hawk Moth or Deilephila Elpenor and it seems to come from Britain.

Another moth arrived a couple of days ago: a stunning silver moth pin made by Mielle Harvey. I have loved Mielle’s art jewellery ever since my first encounter with it. Her sensitive way of capturing the essence of the animal she is creating- in life or in death- truly touches me. In May this year we visited Mielle and her husband in Providence. This was a great chance for me to see her amazingly detailed drawings and paintings, as well as her new jewellery project called The HEXAPODA Collection. It is a collection of wearable insects; brooches, earrings, rings and cuff links are skillfully modeled in wax, multiple-casted in silver or bronze and then hand painted or patinated. At first glance they appear very realistic, you might even think she casted or electroformed the real insects, but when you have a closer look you can definitely discover Mielle’s own vision of the creatures.



It took me a long time to decide which jewellery piece I wanted to own the most, but I finally decided upon the white tiger moth pin, perhaps just maybe to give my relationship with moths another chance. I know that I am going to wear this one a lot!

white tiger moth2

I asked Mielle a few questions about her work:

Carina: How did you get involved with art?

Mielle: I was raised by artistic parents, so my background in the arts started early. My parents met in art school, and my mother was studying cinematography when I was born. She apparently took me with with her to the film editing room when I was an infant, so I guess I had a very early exposure to the arts! As a young child I had already decided to pursue a life and career in the visual arts, and I aspired to go to art school. I have always loved exploring the outdoors, and drawing and making objects has provided a way for me to examine and try to understand the world since an early age. Not much has changed in that regard.

Bees Enter Box

Carina: What themes do you pursue in your work?

Mielle: I use my work to express my thoughts about life, death, and re-growth and our relationship towards nature. I see my work as a sort of visual elegy and a reminder not to take life for granted.
Throughout my work, I try to conjure empathy and wonder. I am obsessed by the intrinsic beauty and mystery of nature. Working with nature as a topic is my way of both contemplating, and commenting on, human existence. I feel that the human relationship to nature is out of balance, and use my art as a means of expressing this. I use jewellery as a medium for exploring ideas about power, value, beauty, sentiment, and other concepts inherent to adornment.
The elements of nature I depict are intended to convey a sense of the actual subject, while also functioning as allegories for larger concepts. I hope that by addressing complicated issues like fragility and mortality I can embolden the viewer, or wearer of a piece to treasure the loveliness and fleeting quality of life.

Bird for the Hand, bronze, 11.5cm

Carina: You started with creating art jewellery, now you are also drawing and painting. Are these media equally important for you? Are you addressing different issues with different media?

Mielle: Drawing has always been a critical, but less public part of my practice, and I have always been fascinated by painting. For me, all the mediums are connected, or perhaps even inseparable.
The themes that drive my work remain constant, and I am always experimenting with new ways of communicating them. Working with the same topics in different mediums such as jewellery, drawing, and painting allows more room to explore ideas, and I enjoy how the techniques then influence each other. The skills I learned through studying jewellery allow me express ideas in an intimate and detail-oriented way that is very special to the field, and I bring this sensibility to my drawings and paintings. Likewise, I am intregrating drawing and painting techniques in my jewellery work. While I create each object to stand on its own, I also invision the pieces displayed together, telling a multi-faceted story.

DSC05061 (1)

Carina: You are very drawn to insects. What do you find so fascinating about them?

Mielle: Insects are a starting point from which I create objects that challenge expectation and provoke emotion. Insects play a critical role in sustaining life as we know it, and are a perfect example of the beauty and wonder in nature that we so often over-look.
My work based on insects actually began as a means of questioning ideas about beauty in adornment. Because I’m aware that many people find insects frightening and repulsive, I wanted to utilize this reaction as a way of challenging the viewers’ expectations about what is beautiful. By using precious materials and depicting insects as valuable objects to be worn, I strive to elevate their status, and make the viewer aware of their intrinsic beauty and value.
To hopefully raise even greater awareness of such issues through jewellery as communicative medium, I have been working on a dedicated collection of insect-related pieces called The Hexapoda Collection (Hexapoda being Greek for six legs).
My work does not use actual insects, rather they serve as “models” for the pieces, which I sculpt in wax. Sculpting the pieces is crucial for me, as it compels me to observe the insects very closely, and allows me to emphasize those aspects that support the ideas I want to convey. I purposely do not prettify them. Instead, I emphasize their mysterious qualities, or even those aspects which we can find most troubling. For me, beauty in art is often intertwined with ugliness.


Carina: How has your practice changed over time?

Mielle: The themes that interest me have remained largely the same, however my approach to addressing them has evolved. Over time I have  delved into ways of integrating the different facets of my practice including: jewellery, painting, sculpture, and drawing into a consolidated and multi-faceted body of work. Simultaneously, I have finding exciting ways to cross-pollinate these different mediums to create unique hybrids.

Carina: Thank you!


Large Dead Bird

1 Mielle Harvey: Moss and Lichen on Bark, 2005; Oil on canvas, 58,5 x 45,7 cm; Photo: Mielle Harvey
2 , 3 Photos: Carina Shoshtary
4/ 5 Mielle Harvey: Cockroach (The Hexapoda Collection), brooch; Lost wax cast bronze, patina, protective varnish; 6,0 x 5,1 x 1,3 cm; Photo: Mielle Harvey
6 Mielle Harvey: Bumble Bee (The Hexapoda Collection), pendants; From left: Lost wax cast bronze, silver and silver with gold, patina, protective varnish, 3, 2 x 2,5 x 2, 0 cm; Photo: Mielle Harvey
7 Mielle Harvey: Carpenter Ant (The Hexapoda Collection), earrings; Lost wax cast silver, patina, protective varnish; 1,9 x 1,9  x 1,9 cm; Photo: Mielle Harvey
8 Mielle Harvey: Tiger Moth (The Hexapoda Collection), label pin; Lost wax cast silver, patina, protective varnish; 2,1 x 1,6 x 1,3 cm; Photo: Attai Chen
9 Mielle Harvey: Bees Enter Box; brooch, 2011; Lost wax cast silver, patina, oil paint, 18k gold; 3,8 cm; Photo: Mielle Harvey
10 Mielle Harvey: Bird for the Hand, sculpture, 2012; Lost wax cast bronze, patina, wax; 11,5 cm; Photo: Mielle Harvey
11 Mielle Harvey: Silver Scene- Specimen II, pendant, 2015; Sterling Silver, patina, oil paint, silk cord, 3,8 x  5,0 cm; Photo: Mielle Harvey
12 Mielle Harvey: Red Underwing Moth (The Hexapoda Collection), pendant; Lost wax cast bronze, patina, protective varnish; 6,0 cm x 4,0 cm; Photo: Mielle Harvey
13 Mielle Harvey: Branch, 2006; Oil on canvas; 152 cm x 91,5 cm; Photo: Mielle Harvey
14 Mielle Harvey: Large Dead Bird, pendant, 2009; Lost wax cast silver, string; 10,1 cm; Photo: Mielle Harvey

Text edit: Hayley Grafflin