I just love what Japanese artist Haroshi does with old skateboards! A self-taught artist but experienced jewellery maker, he turns unwanted decks into wooden mosaics, layering the decks, then cutting, shaping and polishing them into three-dimensional sculptures.
It can be a painstaking process but as an avid skateboarder, Haroshi knows the ins and outs of all the different skateboard brands and how they are made. Amazingly, he is able to differentiate from thousands of used deck stocks and work out which deck fits with which when stacked!
He very kindly took some time out from stacking decks to answer a few questions …
Please tell us about yourself – where are you from, what is your background and how have you ended up where you are today?
As a child, I was raised in the centre of Tokyo. When I was in middle school, I was really into skateboarding. Before I started making things with skateboards, I was doing work like mass-producing rings. I wanted to do more creative work, so I quit that job.
When and why did you begin exploring/ working with skateboards?
Around 10 years ago. My wife suggested to me, ‘Why don’t you use this to create?’
Where do you source the skateboards from?
A friend of mine had a skateboard shop and he helped me collect them. I also receive them from all sorts of people and companies.
Can you tell me about the creative process and how you go about making each piece?
I make a cluster and cut away from it. I don’t really work on a few pieces at the same time. I like to focus on a piece and only start on the next one after I’ve finished.
How much of a coincidence is it that your method of making is similar to how traditional wooden Japanese Great Buddhas are made i.e.carved from wood then built using the method of wooden mosaics?
It’s not that I was thinking about it from the beginning. However, as I started learning to sculpt on my own, I realised that what I was doing was similar to the techniques that people have used in the past. I think that when you make things in the same land, Japan, some things tend to be connected. Now I am conscious of it all the time.
How important is recycling and upcycling to you?
I don’t place a lot of importance on recycling. It just so happens that the most suitable material was there. However, I’m glad that my work influences people around the world to make other things with skateboards, which means less skateboards get thrown away.
What are you working on at the moment? Do you have any exhibitions coming up?
I can’t tell you! (laugh) The next show is in March in New York. Please look forward to it!
What or who inspires you?
Everybody that I’ve known, and everything that I’ve seen!
What would be your dream project/commission?
There’s no one piece that’s more special than the others. Every piece is very important to me.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to relax by the river, but only when I have the spare time.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?
Of course! I’m always thinking about things like that. I’m always thinking about things that haven’t been done before, and how to present them in ways that haven’t been seen before. I don’t want to do things that I don’t have to do; I want to do things that can’t be done by anyone else but me, no matter what.