Interview with creators ~ From the scene of creation ~
Silver workshop AramaRoots ( naturama naturama ) Mr. Kato Kokoro
“I want to continue the challenge of creating my own technology and my own work.”
AramaRoots , which we visited this time, is an accessory brand established by Shinshi Kato in 2000.
The works created from a variety of approaches continue to capture the hearts of many fans as accessories that can be worn for a long time.
The studio is located in a quiet residential area to the west of Mt. Tenno. Blessed with an abundance of nature, this mysterious land that has served as the stage for many historical events is a perfect place to nurture inspiration for your creations.
In addition to his craftsmanship, Mr. Kato also has a multitude of hobbies and a mischievous side.
The desire to create three-dimensional works as accessories
| ─Were you good at making things from a young age?|
My family moved to Kyoto when I was young, but my parents were originally from Izumo, and my grandfather was a craftsman who made Buddhist statues and Buddhist altars.
I still vaguely remember my grandfather's workplace and the smell of wood. It seems that I was the only relative who inherited that blood, and instead of toys, I was given paper and pencils, and I was the kind of child who was content to draw cartoons.
Rather, I was creating something that would surprise those around me. I went on to study art in high school, and since then I wanted to be a manga artist, so I've been drawing for a long time. In the end, I gave up on being a manga artist, but after that I worked as a character designer at a game company, worked as a freelance graphic designer, made objects as a hobby, and sold them at flea markets. I have been involved in creation in various ways.
─There were twists and turns, but it was a creative effort. Was the final destination a jewelry designer?
When I turned 30, I decided that I wanted to learn three-dimensional modeling in a way that would allow me to work properly, so I started attending a jewelry school while working. Toshi is over 30, and I thought that I would be able to make a living from this, so I learned voraciously.
-The results came out quickly.
I desperately tried to reach out to those around me, and thankfully, through the introduction of friends, I started receiving orders from an early stage.
After receiving the order, I learned from the teacher at school what I didn't understand. In 2000, when I started "Ginkobo AramaRoots", I was still in school and was an office worker during the daytime.
After all, I went to school for 3-4 years and quit after learning most of what I should have learned.
─What is the origin of the brand name “Arama Roots”?
It is a coined word of Ainu word "Aram" which means "my soul" and English which means "way, origin". It means "the origin of my soul". The idea is to create a soulful work that can become the roots of the next generation of accessories.
The reason I use the Ainu language is because I originally wanted to make jewelry with Ainu patterns. But after a few games, I got bored and stopped making them (laughs).
After that, I liked to make hard men's style silver accessories, gimmicky and elaborate things like moving springs inside.
-It's a completely different style from now.
I'm a boy (laughs), so I like mechanical things and robots. However, there was a problem that the effort and the price were not balanced (laughs).
The joy of the person who holds it is the motivation for creation
─What made you shift to accessories for women like you do today?
It's because there are more opportunities to sell at department store special events. Because of the nature of a department store, most of our customers are women, and we thought that we would not be able to grow as a brand unless we focused on women.
Gradually, I made the lines thinner and added nature-themed objects such as butterflies and flowers.
─ Did you have any resistance to making something with a completely different taste?
There was a beginning (laughs). but. When I saw how happy the customers were while communicating with them, and when I realized that they valued me, I was really happy and encouraged.
Also, my girlfriend at the time... my wife now, but she tells me what she wants, so I try to listen to her as much as possible.
─The wife who is now in charge of sales and web of “Arama Roots”! So the three-legged race really started from there.
I agree. I started making cats at her request. I myself love cats and have had them for a long time, but I had no intention of turning them into a work.
The world was full of real, three-dimensional things like this, so I wasn't interested in making them myself. I was originally interested in it because it was a complicated design.
But after making accessories for more than 10 years, I've acquired the technique of putting my own personality into it, so I thought I'd give it a try.
─What are the characteristics of the cats that Mr. Kato handles?
Mine is probably a cartoon. It's modeled after an actual cat, but it's not just a real cat. I put my own loveliness in it, or rather, I emphasize what I think is cute.
However, if you overdo it, it will become childish, so I am careful about the balance. It's a cat for adult women.
─You started with cats, and now your animal series is expanding.
There are many parts that I make while listening to customer requests, so I added dogs and rabbits. In particular, requests for dogs are increasing. There are still few authors who create dogs, so I think they are getting a lot of attention.
─All of your works are really lovely, but what do you keep in mind when you make them?
After all, the motif is a living creature, so I value the atmosphere of talking to you. After the mold is finished, it is smoked once and then polished, which is the final process.
In particular, apart from the eyes, a shiny oxidizing process is applied to give them a life-like glow. That's why, even with the same model, each one has a different expression when it's finished. As a child of mine, I would be very lucky as a writer if you could be attached to me.
─The morpho butterfly accessory series is one of Kato's masterpieces. Recently, it has been used in dramas, and it seems that there has been a flood of orders.
I'm calm now (laughs). I want to find a piece of jewelery made of morpho butterfly wings sandwiched between glasses among the antiques favored by British aristocrats, and use modern technology to do this! I thought and researched.
The material was morpho butterfly wings that could not be used for specimens, but since they are not available in Japan, I had to fumble from scratch, starting with how to import them.
It took a lot of ingenuity to recreate it with resin instead of glass, but I've been making resin accessories for a long time and have acquired the skills, so I was able to come up with a technique to skillfully process it. I am proud that I have created something that no one else can imitate.
─It is a trade secret how you turned that beauty into a work of resin.
Of course (laughs). But it's been 5 years since I started making it, but honestly, it's only recently that I've been able to do it with perfect quality.
In the meantime, the quality of materials such as resin has improved dramatically. What I'm building now is close to perfection. Therefore, if there is a request for a customer who has purchased it before, we will pay only the cost of materials and perform maintenance to restore it to almost new condition.
Not limited to Morpho Butterfly, we accept maintenance for all works that we send out. We do not use materials that cannot be repaired.
What I want now is the technology to freely color jewelry
─ You can clearly see that you have condensed your commitment to each work. I get the impression that each work is a new challenge.
I always have a desire to develop new technologies. I want to bring out the things that I aspire to, in my own way, to the world. In particular, I've always wanted to add color to my accessories, and I met Morpho Butterfly, but resin doesn't last forever.
The best way to add color is to incorporate something made of glass. Then, I happened to find a book in a second-hand bookstore, and was shocked by the work of Rene Lalique, a French jewelry artist who was active in the 19th and 20th centuries. After that, the more I researched, the more I wanted to make this technology my own.
I want to make things that can only be made by hand. Also, I want to offer something pop and familiar, but not cheap, rather than expensive. I thought it was the perfect technique. In Japan, the principle is the same as the cloisonné technique, but there are some things that can't be done with just that.
I definitely want to use this technique and be able to express myself, but the only place I've found that I can learn from is France.
─I want to see Kato-san’s new ground as soon as possible.
I think that now is the only time to move, but the conditions are not quite ready. Luckily, I've always been the type to go straight if I'm interested. I still have the desire to challenge myself. Since I am already 50 years old, I would like to acquire this skill as my final challenge.
- 50 years old is yet to come. But Mr. Kato is very positive.
No, when I was little, I was a shy and timid kid who thought, "I'm the one anyway." But then I realized. This kind of thinking is no good, it's only a loss! You bring all the bad results on yourself. I still remember the moment when I realized that and decided to change my way of thinking from now on. It was before I entered elementary school.
─ That's pretty precocious (laughs).
I wonder. But I don't have any recollection of how things have changed since then, or whether my life has taken a turn for the better. However, in terms of thinking, I have always been forward-thinking.
─ What will life be like?
No, "it will work out" won't help (laughs). However, I think that it is basic to make an effort to match that if you have to do something. A handful of geniuses aside.
I think that basic skills are very important, and when I decided to make accessories, I studied hard at school, so it took me some time, but I think I'm still able to work as an artist.
I took a lot of detours, but thanks to drawing manga, I was able to create a three-dimensional form of what I imagined in my head.
─What kind of development are you aiming for in the future?
Being introduced to Craft Cafe and being able to connect with people involved in making things in a different industry is really stimulating.
Everyone is getting bigger and bigger, I think it's amazing, and I'm conscious of them as rivals. I myself have been blessed with connections with truly wonderful people, and I have come this far. That's why I can't afford to lose.
It's a small brand run by a single artist, so I can't really expand my reach, but I'd like to create for the world in the future. For that reason, I want to add European nuances to my current works, so it is essential to acquire new techniques.
So, eventually I want to go to the Passion Continent (laughs). Above all, the best thing is to continue to create works that I am satisfied with and that will please as many customers as possible.
─ I have high hopes. Thank you very much.
"I'm not a genius, I'm just an ordinary person. I've come this far only through hard work, connections, and luck," says Mr. Kato. Also, isn't it a rare talent?
While responding flexibly to needs, his creative attitude with a "core" that continues to challenge what he wants to make is, after all, an artist. I am more and more excited to see what kind of works will be created in the future.
(The images of my cats Gris and Latu, and the images of the exhibition in Milan, Italy, were provided by Arama Roots.)
(Interview date: May 19, 2016 / Text: writer, Kiyo Morimoto)
Profile of Kokoro Kato, silver workshop AramaRoots
Silver Studio AramaRoots Item List