Interview Me: Yuko Fujita (contemporary jeweller)

Yuko Fujita is a contemporary jeweller from Melbourne. Her new show at e.g.etal is a collection crafted from found wooden objects into amazing pieces on a surprising scale. I went behind the scenes with Yuko from her Mt Waverly community woodworkshop in the lead up to KODAMA (return to me).

In this new collection you have used found wooden objects combined with silver and gold. What inspired the concept for your solo exhibition KODAMA (return to me)?
I am attracted to natural materials such as paper, cotton, wood, silk, wool and leather. I see individual, unique character and warmth in those materials. I think they become more attractive when they are dented, stained, wonky, discoloured, stretched and scratched because it gives me a feeling of their life and history.

I see many wooden objects that have passed their prime or have fallen out of use, having been replaced by our ever-changing consumer society. I still see the life in these objects and thought that I can give new life to them again.

The title Kodama has double meaning in Japanese. One means “tree spirits” and the other meaning is “echo” (sound refection). It is said that the reason you hear echo in the forest is that the spirits of tree is responding the sound you made.

My process for the work in KODAMA (return to me) was like communicating with these existing materials. I see the objects and they respond to me through their shape, color and texture to bring form to each item. I transform them into imaginary plants, creatures, and habitats which they may have belonged to somewhere in the past.

Describe your workspace. Do you work alone or with other people?
I have a basic studio at home but most of wooden items were crafted in the wood club I joined called the Mount Waverley Wood Workers Inc. I became a member in order to learn the woodwork skills I needed to realise the work and to access larger machinery. The workshop is full of skilled and enthusiastic woodworkers of all ages. They are very helpful and have much knowledge to pass on. I also like listening to their conversation during coffee break; it is quite a different experience for me!

What path led you to contemporary jewellery?
I began with a degree in Japanese literature in Tokyo then I came to Australia to study jewellery. First I studied NMIT and later completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (gold and silversmithing) at RMIT. I found jewellery quite similar to literature in the respect I went from using words to tell a story to using materials and visual language instead.

I learn a lot from my cats such as being patient, amused by small things and playing in imaginary worlds, which I think help me to work as a contemporary jeweller.

Where do you turn for inspiration?
Materials, shapes and colours inspire me. I would say I am more inspired by elements rather than artwork or artists. I like doodling which often accidentally inspires me.

What next for Yuko? Will we continue to see wood in your work?
I have been enjoying working with wood and would like to develop my woodwork skills further. I think you can expect to see more wood and metal combinations from me in the future.

KODAMA (return to me) is open from 14-31 July as part of the State of Design Look.Stop.Shop program.
Opening night: Thursday 15 July, 6p-8pm, RSVP
167 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.

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