This is the seventh interview in a series in which we will be featuring great talents across a range of professions that touch the beauty world and who inspire us with the simplicity, authenticity and elegance they bring to the work they love.

Today, we are honored to introduce you to Yoko Furusho, one of New York City’s most talented contemporary illustrator/artist who dreams big, and it shows in her art. The characters’ in her illustrations depict a picture of their dreams while donning couture. Fashion has been a huge part of Yoko’s inspiration. Yoko has been awarded in several competitions including Art Directors Club YG7, Society of Illustrators and American Illustration. Some of her clients include H.P. France, Princeton Architectural Press, Keds and Maybelline New York.

Illustration: Yoko Furusho "Sing for Japan"

T: We are honored to have this opportunity to interview one of New York’s most exciting young illustrators. Brands like Maybelline New York and Keds are amongst your fan base because of your unique design perspective on fashion and beauty. How would you describe your work?

Y: Thank you so much for having me for your interview. I'm so happy to participate! About my work: My drawing is my fantasy world. I really like to draw since I was a child. I drew when I felt happy and I drew when I felt sad. I like to see fashion spread and photography. So I think my style is pretty much fashion related. I like to draw details, textures and patterns. I usually use ink and color with acrylic.

T: You are originally from Japan and then moved to New York to study illustration at the School of Visual Arts. How does your Japanese heritage inspire your work? And has your time in America influenced you as an artist as well?

Y: This is  embarrassing to say though, I've not really thought about Japanese culture before I moved to New York. I think many Japanese people tend to think western culture is cool. But after I moved to New York, I realized how beautiful and interesting Japanese culture is and how my illustration's are fully inspired by Japanese culture. For example, I use many patterns in my drawing though, I think many Japanese old paintings or wood-cut have a lot of patterns. I really like how they combine the patterned layers on beautiful kimonos. I'm inspired by Anime/Manga culture too. I've been watching animation since I was a child and I still like it a lot. Every country has their style of animation though, I like how Japanese Anime is weird and full of fantasies. I'm not sure it can be "influence" or not though,  it changed my way of thinking. When I moved here, I was 18 years old with very narrow vision for my life. This city made me think like I can do whatever I want and there is no limit of the possibilities.

T: You mentioned in an interview that you told your parents you were only going to visit New York for two weeks, even though you had no intentions of returning to Japan. What inspired your move?

Y: It is kind of a long story to tell. My parents did not want me to study art in college. They worried about me too much because they think it is very difficult to make a living with art. They are very nice parents, but they never said "yes" for my direction. I tried to take the entrance exam for the art college in Japan, but it usually was very difficult to pass in our first try. I believe that we all should study something we have interests in college; I said it thousand of times to them, but they did not agree with me. I was so lucky to be in the waiting list for entering, but unfortunately the person right before my number was the last person to enter. I think that was the moment I cried the most in my life(haha). I decided to do a lot of part-time jobs and run away from Japan. So I worked for my part-time job instead of going to the college I entered (I lied to my parents). I applied for art college in New York  and I started to prepare for moving. That was the hardest time in my life. I could not speak English at all and I was just a girl who knows nothing and I could not ask for help because I cheated on my parents... I still feel sorry to my parents about that time and what I did to them. They understood my passion after I moved to New York. So we are all fine now though. But because of that, I needed to prove myself that I can make the living with art. So that made me have energy for studying and efforts. I did not want them to feel " we did make Yoko go to wrong way". So I tried hard and I'm very happy that they are so excited every time they see my illustration's in magazines, online or on products. I sometimes think what I would do now if I could enter the art college in Japan. I feel like that was almost my fate about my number of the waiting list:)

T: You recently completed a stunning live-painting window display entitled “Sweet Dreams” at IKIRU shop in Barcelona. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this project?

Y: IKIRU is a furniture store and that was their theme "dreams" for introducing their new FUTON(Japanese sleeping bed). They emailed me because Guille and Irem(works at IKIRU) liked my work and she wanted me to do the exhibition there. I really liked their shop and atmosphere which lead me to work with them. I tried to show my dream world for their window. I think dreams are very interesting. There is a whole new world from the night to morning. So I drew that fantasy world the people create in their dreams. I really enjoyed that project! I want try more window paintings in the future:). Here is the link to my video

T: You are one of the main artists that will be participating in the J-Collabo Exhibition on September 9th in New York. What does the theme “Heritage” mean to you? We love the concept of using Japanese fairy tales with a new form of media in order to pass down the Japanese sense of beauty, customs, lessons and social norms in such a whimsical way. How did you come up with this idea?

Y: When J-collabo asked me to do the exhibition, we came up with the idea of Japanese fairy tale. I thought it is very precious thing that we still hear the same Japanese fairy tale which ancient people heard. So I was wondering what if we transform the story with modern illustration for the children now. I think the time is changing so fast. However we still can keep the heart of Japanese culture with changing the style. I knew many great illustrator friends, so I decided to do this project for my new challenge. Night Bear Studio is the studio we collaborated with for Japanese folk-tale project. They make IPad/IPhone app development studio for children. After we discussed together, we decided to chose some story it contains "teaching". So we picked 4 stories which are...

Why the Sea is Salt -- The heart of helping each other, Be kind to the people

The Gratitude of the Crane -- Be kind for the animal, Keep the promise

The Monkey and the Crab -- Importance of the friends, Be kind to the people

The Marriage of the Mouse -- Thank for many things, Respect for other people, Happiness of the thing as it is.

T: Fun fact- Do you have any traditional beauty secrets from Japan?

Y: I'm not sure which one is traditional though, I eat many soy products. like Tofu, Miso, Nattou. Green tea is also perfect for cleansing inside and out.

T: What exciting projects should we look out for in 2011/2012 from the talented and beautiful Ms. Yoko Furusho?

Y: I'm working on the two children's book now. One is very sweet story from Japanese writer and it will be published soon in Japan. I am currently working on the second book at the moment. I think this year is challenging year for me. I tried a lot of things like live-painting and collaborations as illustration is a flexible artform.   I'm really enjoying meeting people and doing something I never thought of; I want to keep trying different things! Thank you so much!

To view more illustrations by Yoko Furusho:

J-Collabo "HERITAGE" Event Details:

Watch the live painting in Barcelona:

Victoria Tsai
Chief Treasure Hunter

published September 2011

Interviews, Travel
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Photo 1: Snippet from "Yoko Furusho: Live in Barcelona"

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