An Interview with Tomomi Sayuda – Reknowned London based Designer
By Mike Sullivan, translation by Weini Liao
Please introduce yourself and your background, including your studies in Tokyo and London.
My name is Tomomi Sayuda and I am a designer living in London. I was born in Tokyo and have been in London for eight and half years.
Please tell us about your work.
I graduated in design products at Royal college of Art (RCA) this summer. I have been working on interactive design before and during my study at RCA. Before postgraduate school, I worked as a designer at an interactive design studio in London. Meanwhile, I presented my own projects as a media artist.
How did the Tomomi Sayuda Studio brand start?
It started from the time when I graduated from London Art College in 2009 and presented my own labelled work. I had a reputation for my graduation project, iBum, which was scans of bums. This project was also on magazines and television. After that, I was invited to various exhibitions. I worked with companies as a freelancer and presented new works such as Oshibe, Hands and On at art exhibitions.
During my study at RCA, I had exhibitions in India and Spain as an individual designer/ artist, hosted several talks at Victoria & Albert museum in London and attended NHK overseas exchange programme. From these experiences, I emerged as an individual designer on and off campus.
Can you explain a bit about the techniques you use to come up with your designs?
I’ve learned basic analog drawing technique, modelling and ceramics design when I studied industrial design at Musashino Art University.
When I lived in Japan, I had a part time job writing out drawings from CAD (computer aided design) data of set design at the music station of TV Asahi, where my knowledge of the internal works of showbusiness came from. Afterwards, I worked as a temporary web design assistant at a major company and startup company, and learned web knowledge there. I also did part time jobs at an Art department in college, a call centre, a telephone agency at USEN’s headquarter, and worked as a sales assistant at camera and mobile stores. From these experiences, I’ve learned basic office and sales promotion skills.
I dropped out of university in Japan and entered London Art College. My first course was modern art approach photography where I learned photography skills and how to catch critical works of contemporary art. Then I took a media design course at graphics department and learned about video editing, programming and media art producing such as Arduino and Max/MSP.
When I studied in London, I worked as a freelance web designer and learned Flash and Dreamweaver on my own while I built up my business. Since I came to London, I have occasionally helped the performance director, Ms. Kazuko Hoki with her musical group, Frank Chicken. From there, I’ve learned a lot about performance art, including power of performance.
When I worked at Kin design, an interactive studio based in London, I learned how to design terminal UI (user interface) on touch screens in museums, educational terminals for experiencing human touch, graphic design of printings and screens as well as digital design development and video editing.
After I entered RCA, I learned techniques for solid works such as CAD, metal, wood processing, advanced modelling, styling and presentation.
Where do your ideas for your work come from? Where do you find the inspiration for your designs?
In my case, it’s difficult to say where my ideas come from because I always leave it to my intuition. Obviously, I’m not the only artist who relies on intuition, others like Tadanori Yokoo and Taro Okamoto, they do the same. I create most of my works by holding the initial inspired intuition and realizing the idea from drawing the final image as clear as I can.
I don’t know where my good intuition comes from until I looked into the ideas inspired by my intuition and realized it’s from the links of my experiences. It’s not easy to explain my own experiences to others. Therefore, I recalled why I had this idea from different points of view after I was inspired. By doing so, I can explain my works better to others.
My inspirations probably also come from books, especially Japanese lifestyle history books. My favourite ones are history books about the lifestyles of ancient people and autobiographical novels.
Besides intuition and books, short periods of travel in other countries is another important source.
How long does it take to design and make a particular work? Can you give a short summary of the processes that go into each one?
Take Desktop Firework for example, I spent about 4 months from conceptions through tests to trials. Once an idea comes up, I start product tests at an early stage. I’ll do several technical tests to see the possibility of realizing my ideas. After all, an idea won’t be fun if it can’t be applied. I’ll try another easier applicaiton if I encounter any difficulties during tests. I constantly take an objective view of my work, whether I would enjoy the work if I was the audience, to keep improving myself. Finally, at the stage of making final products, I’ll consider designs of forms, arrangements of colours, and go through trial and error in various ways.
My work is about interaction and communication with people, which means knowing how to tell the audience my own story is essential. I need to leave at least one week to make a video because I am in charge everything, including filming, AF for animation and video editing.
I like to be ahead of schedule and remain composed throughout the project, so I can have time to do final adjustments and enjoy my tea time on the day before presentation. For instance, I completed most of my graduation project a week before presentation and had a week to check and adjust my final work. Besides, to take good care of my health, I went swimming every day during the graduation project. Swimming made me felt calm and refreshed, this was crucial to the accuracy of my work.
What is your most popular design? Can you tell us about the Mask of Soul?
I think my most popular design is iBum, after iBum, are The Mask of Soul and Desktop Fireworks.
Regarding the Mask of Soul, when my friends and I were at karaoke, a quiet friend suddenly sang out Golden Bomber’s “Memeshikude” loudly. This interlude impressed me very much and became the inspiration of this work.
Will people still feel shame if I hide their eyes and give them privacy? I started this project from the following question to myself, what happens if I hide people’s face under a mask and give them a speaker as an opposite factor to say whatever they want?
Two people covered by masks and who talk at each other at a public café, even strangers became involved. It was very interesting to see a shy person started to shout out strong words loudly. When participators cursed in their own mother languages this was also interesting. Even though the audience didn’t understand some of the participant’s languages, they were hugely amused by this surreal performance
For someone who wishes to take up this kind of career, what kind of advice would you give them?
The best way is to try things that interested you and keep doing it. If you know anyone who shares same interests with you, go to meet this person so you can know more about the reality of that industry. Anyway, do what you like to do. There is no other way than try it yourself.
To what extent do you draw upon your Japanese heritage for your work?
I never consciously emphasize my Japanese background in my works, but somehow, these works reflect my Japanese roots. Probably, this is due to the fact that I like to read Japanese books and am frequently inspired by them.
What do traditional Japanese crafts mean to you?
In the year when 3.11 (Tohoku Earthquake) happened, I visited lots of Japanese traditional craft studios in 6 prefectures of Tohoku while Tohoku London established the project that connected designers in Tohoku district and London. I was deeply touched by craftsmen I met in Tohoku. They all have very strong faith to inherit their own traditions despite the situation being difficult.
Japanese craftsmen’s pride of crafting is very high. They are always very prudent to their works. We have lots of such great craftsmen working on different types of crafts, they are the reason that Japanese crafts have been appreciated worldwide.
Even though the process is slow, I have learned a lot from this project and other collaborated projects. I’m also thinking if there is any project I can do for those Japanese craftsmen.
Do you have any exhibitions or events coming up?
I just graduated last week. It’s time to decide what I am going to do in the future, therefore, I don’t have any announcements for scheduled exhibition yet.
Finally, any last words for anyone interested in Japanese crafts and design?
Traditional Japanese crafts have become the foundation of Japanese craftsmanship nowadays. I studied product design and crafting in Japan. Japanese crafts and people who engage in these works all have affected my passion for crafting and my ability to tell a story through a piece of work. Japanese are prone to be enthusiastic about crafts, we believe every craft has a spirit in it, this has even become a fetish. This view point is probably from Shinto and Buddhism religion, the concept of animism. With this enthusiasm, Japanese crafts are still very unique even in today’s world.
Through understanding the background of Japanese culture, people might catch more when they reflect upon these unique Japanese objects.