Arko is a straw artist based in Tokyo who links the ancient and modern worlds of Japan using rice straw. By Hand-sewing rice straws, she creates wall-mounted artworks with sculptural patterns, bringing this ancient material back into our lives.
ARKO: I have always been fascinated with the day-to-day history of the Japanese people, their rituals, utilitarian objects, and natural materials, such as the rice straw. In Japan, since ancient times, we have eaten rice as a staple food. We also use this cereal to make everyday products such as clothing or tools, using rice straw as a byproduct. Nowadays, Japanese people just use it to make a traditional straw-rope decoration named “Shime-Kazari”, used to celebrate the new year. When I was born, the use of rice straw almost disappeared from our home. As I was growing up my interest in its history grew with me, and made me search for rice straw rolls in Japanese culture.
Rice is an important symbol of Japanese culture as same as the Japanese language.
Bringing back the rice straw
Arko: Rice straw was widely used until around 60, and 70 years ago. Although rice consumption in Japan is still very high, rice straws have almost faded out in modern life. I started thinking that it should be something new apart from the old traditions given that there must be a reason why straws vanished from our life.
My work aims to highlight the disappeared rice straw and bring it back again to our lives while inspiring feelings of natural providence. Rice straw notifies us of the lost culture and civilization.
The importance of Craft
Arko: There are currently many chemical and processed materials from their original source. I think the primitive materials are increasing and are approaching us. Craft is, in this sense, a very conceptual and somewhat philosophical answer to this phenomenon.
Interview with ARKO| Photography: ARKO.