Artist Ken Yashiki: Used clothes are the proof of someone’s existence

Let’s delve into the world of Ken Yashiki—an artist who uses clothes that are worn out and no longer in use, in order to hand down the fact that something/someone existed.

Clothes are one of the essential things in our lives. Many of you probably have clothes that you no longer wear as you grow up, as they got dirty, or for other reasons. In this article, we would like to introduce Ken Yashiki—a Japanese artist who creates his works using such used clothes.

The technique he uses is called “kimekomi” in which you place fabrics on a base material, into which grooves have been carved, then tuck the edge of the fabrics into the grooves using a spatula. It is a traditional technique unique to Japan, which originated during the Edo period as a way to divert leftover materials of temple and shrine construction into products such as Hina dolls. With the technique, he creates pictures by affixing clothes, which had been worn by someone, onto a base.

According to Yashiki, clothes are “empty shells of the lives of someone.” That’s why his creation process begins with talking to the owners of the clothes to interpret what kind of people they are, including their lives from the past to the present. From there, he uses the “memory” that the clothes have—their smell, stains, fraying, etc.—as well as the thoughts that had been put into them by the brands and designers who made and sold them, as “ingredients” for his works.

Why used clothes? Yashiki used to make his works with textiles he made by himself. However, after his oldest daughter’s heart surgery, he began using used clothes. Fortunately, she was saved by the surgery, but he became no longer able to really feel alive himself after having once feared for the worst. So he began creating a piece of work by using his daughter’s clothes that had become too small for her to wear. As he pasted the clothes one by one, he gradually regained his memory of the times he had spent with her, and the warm feeling within returned. Since he had his roots in “clothing,” as he had worked in the apparel industry during his twenties, that incident drew him into the profundity of using used clothes.

His solo exhibition at Nichido Gallery in Ginza. "Old clothes," the proof of someone's existence, are lined up in a row like a waterfall.

His creative endeavor began with works inspired by his family and acquaintances. However, in recent years, he has released many more works while expanding their range, including those reflecting society and the times. Displaying his works at Shinjuku Isetan, UNIQLO TOKYO, etc., exhibiting his works at art events both in Japan and overseas, and winning a variety of awards, he continues to expand the sphere of his activities.

If you are interested in his works, check his official website and Instagram account for events, etc. and definitely see for yourself the fusion between a traditional craft technique and contemporary art.

■DATA Ken Yashiki Born in 1983. Spent his childhood in California, Tokyo, and Singapore. After graduating from a fashion college, he worked for a major apparel manufacturer before becoming an artist. He has received various awards and is active widely having exhibited in Japan and abroad. Official Website:https://kenyashiki.com/ Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/yashiki_ken/