It goes without saying that gift wrap is a popular choice with many online shoppers (and why not – it’s so much easier to have someone else do it, you know?). As we inch toward the holiday season, we wanted to reintroduce the option; we also wanted to create something profound to wrap your piece in – something that suggests more than simple “unwrap and toss” paper. In came Satsuki Shibuya, a local creative whose work we’re all obsessed with. When she happily obliged to creating a design for us, we were over the moon. Ahead of our gift wrap relaunch, we asked Satsuki a few questions so we could get to know her a little better:
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background as an artist.
To be honest, my background was never in art, but music. Looking back now, with my love for ceramics and crafts, I must have always been drawn to visual arts but was steered towards music, starting piano at the age of 3.
Upon entering the University of Southern California for music, during my second year, I remember speaking with my parents, asking if I could drop out to enroll at an art school. (That idea was quickly vetoed!) Even upon graduating and working at Capitol Records, I found myself lingering in the halls of the art department, where illustrators were hard at work creating new designs for soon-to-be-released albums.
It must have been something I’ve had within, from a very young age, yet did not realize until after graduating art school (I did end up going back to school for art; I can’t take no as an answer! Ha!) and through many career variations — graphic design, product design, creative consulting, art directing, and visual creation, it has been a little over 2 years since I began painting and although no one can tell the future for certain, find myself drawn towards the lives of artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Henri Matisse, creating even until the wee hours of my existence.
How do you think life in Los Angeles has shaped the way you both absorb and create art?
I’ve never felt connected to living in Los Angeles until fairly recently. Perhaps it is because I am a second generation Japanese-American, with a mix of traditional upbringing peered through an American lens, that I’ve never quite grasped my identity and therefore, could not ground myself here, even though it is my birthplace.
Not to say I quite feel as though I fit in like a jigsaw puzzle when in Japan, as it is of similar circumstances. I joke with my friends sometimes of an island somewhere between Japan and California called “Nisei-land” (Nisei meaning second-generation Japanese) where nisei children come from.
But entering into my mid-30’s, I find myself changing, significantly, having the opportunity to meet people from around the world and realizing one’s identity to their environment is not so much based upon perceptions, but of experiences. Regardless of where I am, it is these individuals who bring depth and connectivity, which is not dictated by location.
In this sense, I am thankful for the in-between experienced, in many ways aside from my Japanese-American background, as it continues to open channels of expression through various perspectives. In art, it plays the role of conceptualizing instances where a viewpoint may start from my Japanese upbringing or a faint scent of autumn recognized through the trees which surrounded our home in La Crescenta, such knowings present infinite possibilities, all of which are at the disposal of any creative undertaking. I now love Los Angeles and regardless of where the wind carries my heart, it will always be home.
You’ve worked on some notable collaborations (congratulations, by the way!), do you find it difficult to balance personal creativity with commercial creativity?
It is something I am in constant dialogue within myself. Realigning, refocusing, reconsidering. What is it that I want to do? What is of importance? Why do I continue to work day after day? What is the driving force? What is the purpose?
As long as we live on Earth as citizens of society, earning an income is a necessity, and as my good friend shared with me, “It isn’t cute to be broke!”, but at least for myself, a balance of personal versus commercial is necessary, not only for my sanity, but also as a way of monitoring my life purpose.
Recently, I went to visit a dear family friend, a woman who I consider my “American grandmother”, nearing her eternal hibernation. During our conversation, sparse, as she went in and out of consciousness, upon her lips, she would whisper, “Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude.” And her lesson of the day, “Only come to see me with a beautiful face, ok? You are not allowed to be in my presence with a dirty face.” Beautiful meaning beautiful souled, one which radiates from within and comes forth with warmth. Those who beam light and draw us towards their beauty. This is what she was sharing and the words that fell from her lips, told the story of her life, saving the lives of others.
The time with her was serene, yet intense, reminding me of the very essence of why I create — it is to live from the soul, authentically, and to connect with people as directly as possible in a language which makes the most sense to myself. To know when I say my final farewell, the words and actions made each day, each moment, was real, potent, and on point.
The difficulty lies within not knowing the goal, but once it is set, all else falls into place.
"I think I am drawn towards simplicity in all things due to my physical, mental, and spiritual composition."When creating art for brand collaborations, what do you look for in the company?
Quite simply, is it an immediate yes without any gut reactions/intuitive rejections? Do I align with their business/life philosophy? Does it make me feel happy? If all signs are go, it’s show time.
Vrai and Oro was founded on three key values: quality, simplicity, and transparency. Are there any values you’ve built your business around that influence your everyday?
Authenticity, respect, and heart.
You’ve said before that this life you’ve created doesn’t feel like work because it calls to your soul. Is there anything outside of painting that resonates with you in that same way?
Such a difficult question as I feel all of what I do is my life work, but I’m equally excited by the opposite — of doing nothing. When I am able to enjoy this nothingness, it feels as though another world opens up, vivid and expansive, and is directly linked to creativity.
Your artwork is very unique in its simplicity. Do you have to remind yourself of the “less is more” approach, or is it naturally occuring?
I think I am drawn towards simplicity in all things due to my physical, mental, and spiritual composition. Physically, I have many food allergies, which lends to a pared down approach towards cooking or selecting skin care which uses minimal ingredients. Mentally and spiritually, due to my sensitivity towards energies and a sponge-like perception, curating is necessary to avoid burn out.
And therefore, paintings created, due to the nature of them being a translation of Universal messages, my own inner world, and life existence, it seems that simplicity is what comes forth, not intentionally, but through organic connection.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career to-date and how have you navigated through it?
It would have to be my illness that took me out for a year. I never imagined becoming ill to the point of not being able to get out of bed, but when it happens, you quickly realize the many things taken for granted. Forget work, what about being able to walk and use the restroom by yourself? About being able to get out of bed to enjoy some sunshine? It was a wakeup call to see what must be focused upon and if I were able to have the opportunity to work again, to do it with purpose, not for myself, but with a larger goal in mind.
Once I was able to wrap my head around this idea, all began to take form. As I became stronger, starting work again was possible. One step at a time, the frozen clock began to tick. And the more authentic I was to my inner calling, the more things ran smoothly. Before, it was about fame, fortune, being the best, now was about truth, happiness, and others. The focus was not upon my own desires, but the vision of bringing more light onto this planet and since then, I’ve not looked back.
As much as it has been a challenge to let go of the past, it has also been the most fruitful and satisfying since becoming ill. We never know what life will present, but what I have learned is no matter what, if we live from the heart, let go of our egos, and believe in the infinite possibilities of our existence, anything is possible.