I’m bad at crafts. As in famously bad. And it turns out I’m particularly bad at traditional Japanese arts that require full attention to detail, such as paper cutting.
On my 12-day trip to Japan, our group made several attempts at traditional craftwork. At Hoshinoya Kyoto, we put together small incense bowls. Our teacher was precise and orderly. We….weren’t.
And at Hoshinoya Karuizawa, a hot springs resort town about an hour northwest of Tokyo, we took a stab at origami. And believe me, stab is appropriate terminology because we really mangled those cranes. #CraftFail.
Better to leave it to the experts, such as paper cutting artist Chiharu Mizuguchi. We met Chiharu in Shuzenji,, a hot springs resort town in the Shizuoka prefecture (located about an hour southwest of Tokyo, near Mt. Fuji).
Chiharu, 28, had mad cutting skills. She grabbed a piece of paper and scissors as she talked to us, and within minutes, churned out a silhouette of a little girl holding a flower.
What’s even more special about Chiharu is that she’s self taught, in a field that’s traditionally been dominated by men. Her work is starting to get recognized; we saw fans and other papers with her designs in stores around Shuzenji.
We were all so impressed that we ordered custom art pieces from her. I asked her for a piece with snow monkeys on them. She came up with a lovely cut out that I plan to frame, and it only cost me 3,000 yen (about $45).
Seek out young and emerging artists when you’re on the road. You’ll not only get a good deal, you might make a friend – and you can watch their career grow.
But Chiharu pulled out all of the stops for Val D’Elia, who asked for a larger piece of artwork. By studying Facebook photos of our trip, Chiharu cut out a complex, multi-scene page that not included Val with her camera, it included the sights that we had seen throughout Japan. And she only charged 7,000 yen (about $90).
We all left feeling that Chiharu could charge a lot more for custom pieces and paper cutting classes. Once her English gets better, she’ll be adept at taking commissions and having a real online business.
My trip to Japan was sponsored by several hotels and government organizations, but my opinions remain my own.
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