We like to make everyone feel at home at The Crucible – and for one new community member, Hiroki Fukushima, that warm welcome is especially important. A Japanese immigrant, Fukushima moved to the Bay Area in July 2012, and his involvement at The Crucible has been essential to helping him find inspiration, community, and connection in his new home country. We sat down with Fukushima and his daughter, Marina, to learn more about his artwork and experience at The Crucible.
Sarah Dabby: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hiroki Fukushima: My name is Hiroki Fukushima and I’m an artist from Japan. I focus on blacksmithing, but I also work with aluminum, copper, and brass. I’ve also dabbled in ceramics, but I love working with metal. I’ve been working on my craft for over 40 years.
SD: How did you find out about The Crucible?
Marina Fukushima: I found it for my dad! It’s a funny story. I’m a dancer, and came to the Bay Area over three years ago. When I first moved here, a choreographer asked me to be in their dance piece. The piece would be staged at The Crucible, which often hosts big dance events. I couldn’t perform the dance because of a scheduling conflict, but because of that offer, I discovered the huge metal studios in Oakland. We’ve been planning for my parents to move here for about two years, and I kept thinking about the metal studios in Oakland. I started researching them about a year ago, looking for different places for my father to work. We decided The Crucible was the best place for him for two reasons: he could have access to many tools, and he could learn about American measurements. The tools and measurements in America are slightly different than those in Japan; being able to use the tools, research them, and learn about the equipment – both by hands-on experience, and by communicating with fellow artists at the studio – is great.
SD: How have you found your experience working in the blacksmith shop?
HF: It’s wonderful. In the past, I’ve always had my own studio with my own tools, so I’ve always worked alone with whatever tools I owned. Now, I work alongside other blacksmiths and can work with many more tools, so there’s a lot more inspiration around me. The people that work here are especially inspiring. I don’t speak much English, but being here, watching everyone work in different ways, and seeing everyone’s pieces come alive is really exciting. It’s especially great because the camaraderie here is wonderful. I’ve really enjoyed building relationships and developing trust with fellow blacksmiths – those relationships are really important, and I want to express those connections into my work.
SD: Are there any projects you’re currently working on?
HF: Today, I finished a wall ornament with iron. The ornament is a full moon with a silhouette of grass inside. The Japanese love subtle expressions of nature – it reflects a certain sensitivity that’s unique to the Japanese people.
SD: What inspires your artwork? Are there any themes or ideas that influence your work?
HF: I love to create art expressing human connection. I’m touched by people’s kindness and relationships, so I try and incorporate that into my work. I also work on architectural pieces.
SD: Do you have any advice for people who are looking to join The Crucible? What would you say to people who are thinking of coming here?
HF: Usually, you have to have your own studio to create or explore metal work. However, most people can’t afford to have a metal studio – you need many tools, it’s incredibly noisy, and several things in the studio are quite dangerous. At The Crucible, you don’t have to worry about any of this; they have many, many tools, it’s ok to make noise – the space is already set up. It’s really nice. There are also more possibilities to incorporate different materials into metal work. Usually metal work is just metal work. But at The Crucible, you have the opportunity to combine different medias, which is unique.
SD: What do plan to build next?
HF: It’s really open. It’s not for sure what I want to create next – I feel something, but need to let that feeling cook and develop. It’s an adventure!
To learn more about Hiroki Fukushima’s artwork, visit www.hirokifukushima.com, or check out the art boutique Kappa Zakka in Hayes Valley (www.kappazakka.com). All translations provided by Marina Fukushima.