Tomoko Suzuki Swimming in Symbols, 2024 mixed media collage on paper. Courtesy.

Artworks inspired by and incorporating vintage hand-dyed cotton yukata cloth from Japan are on view in Yukata Inspired 2024, an invitational exhibition at Danaca Design Gallery. Twenty-one metalsmiths and ten collage artists have combined metal, fabric and paper with non-traditional materials and found objects to create contemporary interpretations of traditional art forms. 

Danaca Design is a metalworking and jewelry studio where independent artists of all levels can rent bench space and take classes. What began as a small display of students’ and instructors’ work expanded and eventually spun off into a freestanding gallery where founder/owner Dana Cassara curates an intriguing collection of jewelry by emerging and established artists from Seattle and around the world. Her longtime friend, Patricia Belyea is the co-owner of Okan Arts, an enterprise that grew out of a love for Japanese textiles and now encompasses imported vintage fabrics, quilting classes, and guided tours to Japan. Jazzed by an exhibition opening at Danaca that included a live runway show of bolo ties, Belyea suggested a collaboration: Okan would provide fabrics for jewelry artists to use as material and inspiration. The resulting show opened at Danaca Design Gallery in 2020 and was reprised in 2022. Gallery staff suggested adding another medium and introduced Cassara to Andrea Lewicki, an artist and curator who extended invitations to her network of collage artists. This year’s show includes both jewelry and collage.  

Tomoko Suzuki is one of the collage artists new to the show this year. Trained as a printmaker, much of her current work is in ceramics, but she likes to use a variety of media to stimulate her artistic practice. The design motifs of the Yukata cloth were very familiar; she chose a bamboo print. 

Artist Tomoko Suzuki. Courtesy.

“The symbols are really typical,” she notes. “Bamboo is a symbol of growth, of youth. It sets an example of how young people should grow: straight, no nonsense… useful.” She cut the fabric in strips and pieces to create two very different images, of a bamboo forest and a river swirling around islands of bamboo. 

Cynthia Toops is an established jewelry artist who has taught and shown work at Danaca Design, including in the past two yukata shows. Her primary medium is polymer clay. Her inspiration was a flower print fabric. 

“I selected the fabric because I liked the simple shapes of the morning glory flowers. I remember the purple ones grew wild in Hong Kong,” Toops recalls. She created a necklace of bugle beads with a pendant of morning glories: a bouquet of blossoms that is a mosaic of tiny fragments of colored clay. Before heat-setting the piece, she drew an even more intricate pattern on the back of the pendant with colored micron pens, an abstraction of the flower shapes. 

Cynthia Toops Necklace 2024, polymer clay mosaic with micron pen drawing on back, glass bugle beads. Courtesy.

Yuko Tanaka shows her jewelry at Danaca and other galleries. She works in sterling silver with touches of gold and natural materials like coral and pearls. She is participating in the yukata show for the third time. Her source fabric was printed with a bold pattern of waves. 

“Usually, I research what the pattern means and the traditions behind the pattern. This time I focused on the graphic itself,” she recalls. “When I saw the fabric, it reminded me of a painting by the Japanese master, Sotatsu Tawaraya. I wanted to create the same scenery but more abstract, ambiguous, like the clouds and rocks of the Pacific Northwest coastline.” Tanaka made a brooch and earrings set with mother of pearl; the shells’ natural markings resemble the eddies of tidal pools. 

All art is built on tradition, but it is especially thought-provoking when past and present can be seen so literally coming together in one place. Yukata Inspired 2024 runs from May 10 – June 23 at the Danaca Design Gallery, 3511 Interlake Ave. N. in Fremont. There will be an opening reception at 5 p.m. May 10 and a closing reception and trunk show of fabrics from Okan Arts on June 23. To RSVP or schedule a visit to the gallery, go to DanacaDesign.com. 

Yuko Tanaka Earrings, 2024, sterling silver, resin, mother of pearl. Courtesy.
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