artist spotlight
Yoshiko Okada

share your creative practice:
in conversation with Yoshiko Okada

What influences translate into your art practice?


My influences for my glass work are partly drawn from my Japanese cultural background and experiences, and the mass of new cultural experiences I have found since living in Europe. This tries to explore the synergy and paradoxes these different influences create when patched together into an identity, lifestyle and perhaps my consciousness.

Has this changed the way you approach your work?

Yes it has. Since my studies during my BA I have been trying to capture my feelings and emotions, focusing on my thoughts, confronting myself to find a connection between memories and fragmented images I have in my head. I have been questioning myself and my ideas, and hence form, narrative, image, figuration, color and texture, spring from the investigation of my culture of origin, i.e. my childhood memories and experiences.

I continue to challenge my preconceptions, assessing and analyzing the above relationships, rather like a puzzle. Changing and rearranging the unsolved dialogues in my head, this is much like the almost evolutionary process of making my glass work. Through this I am trying to express my personal voice, within my glass work.


What initially captured your imagination about glass?

On my first travels to the UK I visited Southwark Cathedral in London. It was a sunny warm summer day, the sun was shining through one of the stained glass windows and projected a magnificent colour on to the floor. I felt something magical was left inside me. Ever since
that I have been the glass world.

What’s the significance of the handmade to you?

Passion and Love!

I think you have to be passionate to make something you wish to create, if approaching this by hand. With much time, and much consideration and with the creation of spirit, you express and leave your voice, and signature in your work. I think handmade is a powerful tool, that not only leaves you with the pride of making it, but also the dialogue of receiving respect from the audience.

This love of making can be quite painful but sometime it is worth it! Isn’t it?

What was your route to becoming an artist?

My childhood dream was to make a clothes for my children, so for my diploma I went to learn fashion and traditional kimono making. During this course I found myself more happy to make things by hand rather than by machine. By the chance of visiting Southwark Cathedral in London, I found a love of stained glass. Soon after that I took to an adult education course to learn stained glass, then it lead to me to learn glass painting, engraving, then fusing and slumping. I never thought I would become an ‘GLASS ARTIST ‘ until I graduated from my BA in 3-dimentional glass at UCA, in UK.

What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?

Most of my work is kiln casting. I have cast my face and put a segment of this into each piece which I feel is like a symbol or item, reflecting or indicating that this is my own journey. I also combine this with sandblasting images to imply a different layer of expression into these solid glass sculptures. Another technique I use is pâte de verre. In the last 3years or so, I have started to work with the idea of expressing the surface of an object in different ways. I am trying to adapt this technique, as well as working with the fragility of this technique.

How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary glass?

I think my work is purposefully simple in form, but multilayered in message, playing with the idea of hidden feelings and emotions which lie beneath the human surface.

Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?

I sometimes make collages in a sketch book, these seem to have relevance to me. I revisit the places which I have strong memories of when I was young, taking photos of the past and allowing myself the freedom to choose and rearrange these things randomly, as I see fit.
Then I cut shapes and designs, and look at this new place from a different angle. Within this process, I am reducing my thoughts to try to simplify the objects and my thoughts to the simplest forms I can.

Also while I work on my glass, I usually listen to a wide variety of music. Depending on my moods each day the music often gives color to my mind, and sometimes visual images.

Who do you look up to when it comes to aesthetics?

I amongst many others often look up to many Japanese artists. Particularly a ceramicist Osamu Suzuki, and a textile artist Kunihiko Moriguchi.

What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?

In contrast to my work often my eyes drown in work which has collected small pieces and then put them together, in such contemporary artists as Kwang-Young Chun, Cornelia Parker,(a piece called ‘Cold, Dark Matter: An Exploded View). Sergio Camargo (‘Large split relief ‘).
I am much inspired by their concepts and their thought throughout this very ‘ foreign’ and yet similar process to me.
Their installation works are very dynamic, but I think they have a harmony that captures the viewer and invites them to investigate these objects for a very long time, in detail.

Yoshiko Okada

Yoshiko works from her studio in London and works primarily with kiln formed glass, using simple forms symbolically related to the piece, often with small jewel-like elements. Her inspiration is drawn from her own Japanese background in conjunction with her personal experience of western culture. A personal narrative runs through her work.