Okamoto Yoshiko Japanese, b. 1976

Okamoto Yoshiko (b. 1976) started as an illustration book artist and author in Yamaguchi prefecture, where she spent her young adult period depicting the beautiful four seasons and stories of nature found in her everyday life. Enrolling in arts and craft classes conducted by a Living National Treasure metalwork artist Yamamoto Akira (who also comes from Yamaguchi prefecture), shifted her direction to become a metalwork artist. After graduating college, she became a pupil of Mr. Yamamoto and learned his specialized technique of Hagiawase (heat welding method with metal forging) and Kiribame-Zogan (heat welding method with cutout inlay). Her working motif has remained the same throughout her artist's career that is an endless story of nature woven by the four seasons in which she incorporates poetic and musical aspects. This is done by using gradation of many layers of colorful tones of metal.

Technique "Hagiawase" (Joining) in Detail:

For example, "Summer Musical Score" is made of silver (seen in white), several types of shibuichi (copper and silver alloy - seen in gray), and shakudo (copper and gold alloy - seen in black). These metal alloy plates are cut with a fine-saw to be fit into the designed patterns. The  joint sections (where plates are placed side by side), are joined together with silver wax and then melted with a gas burner to join the pieces together. Since it is not possible to make the pattern exactly as designed each time, Okamoto does this "Hagiawase" process a few times until the desired patterns are complete. 


When the pattern on each side is completed, she then sands only the inner side, which smooths out the rattling due to brazing. After that, she hammers it to make curves to shape it. Then, she makes patterns of the white dots. This is done by drilling holes with a 1mm drill, while insetting a short cut pure silver round wire into the hole, and tapping the protruding part with a hammer to fix it in place. Next, she files the protruding part to make it smooth and flat. Strictly speaking, it is the technique of "Kiribamezogan".


When all the patterns are complete, only the inner surface is sanded with coarse sandpaper. She assembles the parts so that they form a three-dimensional shape, fix them with wire, and braze the pieces together.


When it becomes a three-dimensional artwork shape, she files the outer surface. Gradually preparing the surface smoothly by using sandpapers from coarse to fine grain. After sanding, she uses the finest sandpaper to polish the outer and inner surfaces to achieve a mirror finish.


At this point, shibuichi and shakudo are copper alloys, appearing as a beautiful orange, like a copper product, by boiling with chemical patination. Shibuichi turns gray and shakudo turns black. In regard to shibuichi, an alloy of copper and silver, adding more silver makes the surface appear as a light gray, conversely, adding more copper makes the surface appear as a darker gray, and moreover if gold is added, it becomes deeper dark gray.


After coloration, the surface should be coated with special lacquer to prevent oxidation.
When she designs and expresses images like plants in figurative way, she cuts out the base metal plate according to the design with a fine-saw. This creates an openwork pattern, while it makes parts of the same shape as the cut-out parts with different metals. Those cut-out patterns are fitted and brazed in the openings. 


Selected Exhibitions:

2023                    Asia Week New York, US

2022                    Japan Traditional Kōgei Exhibition, Japan

2021                     "Metal Kogei Exhibition," Kanazawa Yasue Gold Leaf Museum, Japan

2020                    "Tansuio Award Exhibition," Sekido Museim of Art, Tokyo, Japan 

Selected Public Collections:
Ise Foundation | Japan