Original Japanese art available for holiday gifts



By Lauren Laws

Finding and purchasing an original piece of art can be tricky, especially when most artists charge thousands of dollars or more for an item. Yet at Japan House, art is a bit cheaper and closer than some might think.

On Saturday, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Japan House will host a holiday sale featuring the works of the Japanese artist Zenkyu Niwa as part of its 10-year anniversary.

“He works with small (and) stylized figures,” said Cynthia Voelkl, assistant director of Japan House. “They’re very heartful and with simple lines expresses emotion.”

Niwa’s work incorporates ‘kokoro.’ While there is no direct translation, it roughly means heart, mind and spirit.

“What he does is put all his heart, mind and spirit in it,” said Kimiko Gunji, director of Japan House. “All his execution, all his ‘kokoro’ in it. (They’re) simple drawings, (but with such) heartful execution.”

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Items for sale from Niwa include framed works, drawings with Japanese phrases around them, works painted onto wood, books, calendars and cards. Prices range from $1 to $200. All of the figures within the art have round faces. This represents ’round kokoro,’ which is peaceful and happy.

Niwa decided that half of the proceeds from the sale of his art would be donated to Japan House.

“Japan House is great with creating relationships with Japanese artists and using their artwork to raise more money for Japan House,” said Karen Kelsky, head of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures.

Japan House will also sell some of its own items, such as note cards, kimonos, the Japan House 10th anniversary book, origami crane pens and a limited number of cans of tea with a special Japan House label. The tea is specifically made for Japan House and donated from the Republic of Tea.

Other items created for the holiday sale are wool blankets designed by artist Laurie Jacobi and created by Pendleton Mills. The blankets are reversible, with a black background displaying gold ginko leaves falling past a cloud as well as the Japanase script kanji for Japan House. The reverse side has the opposite color palette.

“They’re limited edition,” Voelkl said. “Only 240 were made, and they cost $235.”

Besides having items to sell, Japan House is also giving tours throughout the day. People can also sign up for tea ceremonies, which costs $5 per person.

“It’s just a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of the 10th celebration,” Voelkl said. “It’s a way to stock up for the holidays and enjoy Japan House and gardens.”

Kelsky believes that Japan House events help bring understanding of a different culture to campus.

“I think Japan House does a great job introducing the Japanese culture to the community,” Kelsky said. “It gives an opportunity to experience a culture that is very different and yet is also very appealing. A lot of people are interested in Japan right now.”

Voelkl agreed that the area’s authentic Japanese design and immersive environment offers people a unique learning experience.

“Any time people come to Japan House is a cultural experience,” Voelkl said.”It teaches Japanese aesthetics (and we’re) devoted to teaching traditional Japanese culture and art.”