Imagine tens of thousands of tiny, flower-shaped wood chips covering wall after wall in a gallery. That's the type of large-scale installation for which Ayomi Yoshida is famous.
Her art has been displayed internationally from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design to the Mitaka City Gallery of Art in Tokyo. Ayomi often starts with small, nature-inspired parts to create large, yet intricate, installations. We admired her aesthetic and worked closely with Ayomi to bring her unique perspective to artwork made to fit in a home.
Ayomi comes from a Japanese artistic dynasty that began with her great-great grandfather in the late 19th century. Yet she never envisioned herself becoming an artist. Although she was exposed to a lot of art growing up—going to museums and exhibits was just part of the fabric of family life—there wasn't an expectation that she should become an artist. Her parents, both artists themselves, encouraged Ayomi to find her own path.
Her connection to the U.S. began with a Minnesotan who was an avid collector of her grandfather's works.
He visited Japan every year to interview Ayomi's grandfather and to collect more pieces. After five years, when Ayomi was studying architecture at university in Japan, he suggested that Ayomi come to Minneapolis to study. She took him up on his offer and studied at Augsburg College in Minnesota. At Augsburg, Ayomi saw a silk screening class and was drawn to the process. She joined the class and fell in love with the techniques she learned.
When she returned to Japan, Ayomi couldn't find the same silk screening materials there. So she looked around her home and her father's studio and used her father's block printing supplies. Ayomi translated silk screening techniques into woodblock prints. She hadn't studied woodblock techniques from her father, so Ayomi went through a lot of trial and error while creating her first pieces. Along the way, she developed her own, unique process. She carved the wood to create the blocks then devised a way to incorporate the chips created by the carving process into her art.
Detail of Ayomi's own woodblock technique
Jenon Bailie, merchandise manager, worked closely with Ayomi to curate the types of images and scale of artwork that would fit a customer's home while reflecting Ayomi's singular style.
"When we work with an artist, we talk often with them," explains Jenon. "Our team supplies guidance and feedback without infringing on the artist's creative process."
While putting together her collection of limited-edition block prints for Room & Board, Ayomi worked for roughly six months, carving the woodblocks and printing the artwork. Her husband Bidou Yamaguchi joked, "No vacation!" Each woodblock takes about a week to 10 days to carve, depending on the size and complexity of the design. Next up is the most crucial step: getting the colors just right. Ayomi uses water-based inks which cannot be layered like oil-based inks; the color soaks right into the paper. So she does more than two dozen test prints for each piece, working to create just the right colors. Ayomi says she doesn't have a preconceived notion of the color going into the tests; her testing process yields a moment of recognition. But sometimes that's not even the final color. When dry, the color changes and sometimes forces her to start over with the testing process. The end results of her painstaking work are limited-edition pieces that showcase her special woodblock techniques and eye for color and texture.
Ayomi keeps her work fresh and remains inspired by never doing the same things twice. "I come to each project with an open heart and challenge myself to never repeat," she says. When in the planning stages of a new installation, she considers more than just the space; she thinks about the neighborhood, the people who regularly enter the space and the season during which the exhibition will run. "It's important for the art to work with all of its surroundings," Ayomi believes. Ayomi wants people to who pass by to see change and experience that "wow" factor, to have their hearts be moved. "We can be positive and show how things can be made better," says Ayomi. And she hopes her collaboration with Room & Board results in the same feeling every day for customers who display her art in their homes.