Junko Mori

Portrait of Junko MoriPropagationGarden_Flower

Japanese-born metalwork artist Junko Mori was shortlisted for the prestigious Jerwood Applied Arts Prize: Metalwork in 2005 and since then has been working non-stop on a series of exhibitions and commissions. She makes striking, beautifully detailed sculptures built up out of hundreds of hand-forged individual components. Although abstract in form, the pieces are reminiscent of natural forms like sea anemones or root systems and the natural world is an important source of information for Mori. She says, ‘I love plants, I collect, take pictures and get inspiration from them.’

Junko lead workshops and gave an inspiring presentation about her practice and theory at The Making's Inspired by Nature seminar at West Dean in June 2007

Visit Junko's website http://www.junkomori.com


Your BA at Musashino Art University, Tokyo was in Industrial, Interior and Crafts Design and Metalwork, what made you decide to specialise in metalwork?

There were all sorts of reasons really, but I suppose the most important reason was that it was so challenging. In my first and second year at university we studied all sorts of materials – plastic, textiles, ceramics, wood and metal – and I found metal the most difficult of them all. It was a real struggle to get into and the project I was doing was quite boring. So I felt that I wanted to learn more and really master this material rather than going for the easy option. It’s a bit like being attracted to the hard-to-get boys rather than the ones that are running after you – it was a challenge!

What do you enjoy most about working with metal?

I am interested in the property or nature of the metal – especially in steel – and the fact that it is initially hard but becomes soft when heated and the way the moment it cools down it becomes solid. I like the way it reacts very quickly and immediately responds to what you do to it and the way you have to work it very quickly and accurately. Watching a blacksmith forging a piece of metal looks very easy, but it’s actually incredibly skilful work as the material only allows you to work for a certain amount of time. It’s a very demanding material and I love the process of working it – in fact it’s the process itself that’s the most interesting part for me.

How do you make your pieces?

All my pieces are made using hand-forged components. I take lots of different rods, heat them up in my furnace and then forge them into the shapes I require. The finished pieces are then cut, assembled and welded together.

Do you design your pieces before you start work?

No, the work is not really planned or designed so I don’t know what a piece is going to look like before I start work – I don’t have any preconceived ideas about it. For me it’s the process rather than the design that dictates the shape of the finished piece. I like the accidental effect gained by just letting a piece grow by building up the individual components. When I was little I was shown cells dividing under a microscope - both a spooky and a beautiful experience - and the way I work now echoes this feeling of unconscious or uncontrolled growth.

Many of your pieces are built up out of small components. Why are you so attracted to multiples?

I think beauty often comes from an aggregate of small, slightly varied parts. For example a tree is built up of similarly shaped leaves although each one is slightly different. In the same way, each component in my pieces is slightly different as they are all hand-forged but together they look similar and provide a visual impact. Also I like the way I can build up a piece out of individual components by letting them dictate the final shape.