On March 11, 2011, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami shocked the world. On that day, the news in Japan was a sea of negativity: bad news and sad stories of the disaster’s victims. From 2:46:18.1 onwards, there was a gray cloud, covering not just Japan, but the entire world. Blanket news coverage of the incident was broadcasted continuously, worldwide.
This sort of great disaster prompts complex and difficult emotions. The next day, Ayako Buro, from Tokyo, painted “Hue Rain”.
The omnipresent clouds of gray made Ms. Buro desperate to share a happy feeling with the world. “Hue Rain” sought to encourage those affected by the disaster; in the end, it was sold at a charity exhibition at the Tokyo Gallery, with all profits donated to victims of the earthquake. The customer who bought the piece – in front of a tearful Ayako Buro – stated simply: “As I look at the painting, there’s no language needed; it delivers a feeling.” This was the first time for Ms. Buro to take her own work and sell it at a public showcase in front of other people.
Hue Rain, painted by Ayako Buro in 2011
“It felt like the world was covered by a colorful rain. That feeling is a very happy feeling.”
Afterward, Ms. Buro decided to restart her solo exhibitions. But, she felt she wasn’t mature enough; she almost felt like she wanted to run away. She decided to travel and live in many different countries. On this journey, she found herself.
In the Grand Canyon, she saw local people using natural materials to craft dreamcatchers. The dreamcatcher protects the soul of the holder and contains the feeling of best wishes inside of it; this touched Ms. Buro. She wanted to extend the concept of “Hue Rain” – conveying a feeling of happiness to others – by making dreamcatchers with her own hands. This experience inspired her journey as a silk artisan, and nowadays she always has a knitting kit in her bag. She’s taken it with her on her travels to many different countries. And the original inspiration – “Hue Rain” – came along, too, as her brand’s name.
On her travels, Ms. Buro realized that in addition to making dreamcatchers, she also wanted to make accessories. Her friends had very sensitive skin, so she wanted to find them a material that they could wear every day. That material is silk. In order to completely understand it, Ms. Buro started raising silkworms in her home, watching them become cocoons, and then eventually, silk moths. “From this experience, I realized silk is very hard to get. And in the end, when the silk moths died, I helped make them a small grave, and cried a lot, too. The silk cycle is a lifecycle, and it made me cherish it and use it more carefully. Even if there’s just a little bit on my finger, I won’t waste it.”
According to Wikipedia, one silk worm can become one cocoon, and it takes two to three thousand cocoons to make one pound of silk. Hue Rain only uses wild silk; compared to factory-made silk, it has a more natural color, because in the wild, birds sometimes eat the cocoons. It also has a crisper touch, a darker sheen, is less likely to change in texture, and works well to prevent bad bacteria.
Ms. Buro is inspired by her daily life. For example, in 2020, she was living in Italy, and Covid was very serious. The lockdown greatly limited her activities – but it didn’t limit her creativity. She imagined the birds outside, flying freely. “I wanted to take the feeling in my heart, a feeling shared with many across the world, and make it into birds’ wings. I hope I can one day be free like the birds, to see my loved ones again, and tell them how I feel. That’s how I created the bird earrings.” Upon release, the bird earrings quickly became Ms. Buro’s signature item.
Ayako Buro at a pop-up shop in Italy
Traveling to many countries is a key inspiration for Ms. Buro. Handcrafting is a new and unfamiliar culture. It’s helped smooth out her uncertainties. The new environment made her nervous! But by going through handcrafting, she met many people with the same hobby. Each new place she went, she would visit the atelier, too. These would all come together to inspire Ms. Buro’s creativity.
Ayako Buro at an atelier in Thailand
In addition to delivering works, Ms. Buro wants to share her experiences, too. “If I can bring my feelings and thoughts around work and share them with other people, I think everybody will be happy.” In 2022, Ms. Buro finished studying other countries and moved back to Japan. But, this isn’t the end of her journey – just the start of a new chapter. She wants to go around Japan starting workshops. These won’t just be a place to make works, but also a common area for people to meet and communicate their thoughts and feelings as students of craft. Ms. Buro hopes the original inspiration of “Hue Rain” – the simple conveying of a deep feeling, shared with the world – can continue and inspire new feelings, just the way it did all those years ago.
Ayako Buro, after returning to her studio in Japan
Interviewed by Yuwen W.
Words by Yuwen W. & RP
Photo Credit : Ayako Buro