Shaping Colour — A Conversation with Mayumi Yamase


Mayumi Yamase is a Tokyo-based artist who collaborated with Norse Projects Women on a capsule collection for Autumn/Winter 20. Her work can be described as floating between the abstract and the organic — shapeless forms embodying life inspired by the artist’s own.

Outside of painting and illustration, Mayumi runs the monthly art-column in the definitive Japanese lifestyle publication, POPEYE while also working as an editor for Subsequence magazine, the bi-annual imprint from visvim. Expressing herself through various mediums makes sense for an artist frequently collaborating with fashion houses. In her Tokyo studio, Mayumi reflects on a colourful career, and a process that has not only informed her collaboration with Norse, but her work at large.



What have you been working on since you last spoke to Norse Store?

I have been working on quite a few different kinds of things from art projects to writing to practising silk-screen printing. Most recently, I painted/designed a graphic for a huge Noren, a Japanese flag usually used to decorate an entrance, for Pantechnicon; a new department store opening in London’s Knightsbridge later this month. I also just wrapped up a project with a traditional Japanese ceramic company, Maruhiro who specialize in Hasami ceramics. We designed a traditional teacup known as a yunomi as part of an artist series. There are also a couple of on-going projects that I cannot say too much about just yet. Watch this space!

Your #stayhome series on Instagram has not only garnered attention, but it seems to have stirred up something new in your style. How has the pandemic affected your process?

Like everyone, many things changed during the pandemic. The time flow has been a significant change as have my surroundings too. At first, I did not have much work, which was a little harsh of course but at the same time, I had more time on my hands to dedicate to myself, which I took optimistically as an opportunity to re-evaluate myself. I went through my old drawings, paintings and journals and sorted everything, which helped clear my brain and re-identify what shapes me and who I am. I also spent a lot more time running than usual, and this has been great.



“I think my driving forces are feelings and emotions – things you can’t see but feel real. I always try to follow my instincts and try to create what is in my mind as best I can when making creations.”


What is the driving force behind your art? Is there something intangible within?

Intangible! I really love the word. I often think it fits perfectly when explaining my work. I think my driving forces are feelings and emotions – things you can’t see but feel real. I always try to follow my instincts and try to create what is in my mind as best I can when making creations. Thinking about it, it’s a little like choosing the card at the beginning of a card game. Sometimes you know it’s a good one because of a feeling.

Does your art follow a philosophy? What values of your own find their way into your art?

I always try to be honest with myself. As a result, a lot of me goes into each and every artwork.

What are some of your rituals? How do you prepare for a day of creation?

I start each day with the mindset to make it as good a day as possible. Next up is my morning coffee from Little Nap or Camel Back and a spot of tidying and organizing things in preparation for the day ahead.

You often experiment with your medium. Do you have a preference, or perhaps, a secret favourite?

More often than not, I work with acrylic paint and canvases. Products too! I love to play with sewing and felts for my soft sculptures also but not as often of late. When I get the chance, I like to experiment with new mediums because there is always a surprise in store for me and it opens up new ways of doing things.



Are you still freelancing as a journalist? What publications are you working with?

Yes, I am and happy to be! I continue to work as an editor for Subsequence magazine, which is published by Visvim and we just finished up the third issue. It will come out in October, and I am excited to see the real thing. I am in charge of the monthly art-themed page in POPEYE magazine where I get the chance to introduce artists who more often than not are friends of mine and their work. The first to be featured will be artist, Nick Sethi, who works out of NYC.

In addition to those, I also contribute a travel journal for ANA’s in-flight magazine, which I enjoy being part of as it often gives me the chance to travel to new places and work on some artwork to include alongside the text

How was it working on visvim’s Subsequence? How did that opportunity come up?

The editorial team for Subsequence is more like a community of editors who were gathered by Kosuke Ide, the Editor in Chief of Subsequence magazine and wrote for Popeye and ANA. It is a small community, and everyone knows everyone.

How would you describe your personal style?

It is a mixture of many things. Vintage, new, street, multi-coloured, relaxed and comfy! I enjoy wearing things from my mother’s closet mostly.



“My work has changed so much over the years and I would say my thought process and method have become more simple over time. This freedom can be seen in my artwork I feel.”


Norse Projects is lucky to collaborate with you on the Womens Autumn/Winter 20 collection. Do you have any favourite pieces?

I am in love with the knitwear! It’s actually my first time having my artwork knitted and it is exciting to see. I have been wearing the t-shirts and they are really soft and comfy.

What were some themes you drew upon in this collaboration?

I have been lucky to get to the mountains and be surrounded by nature recently and tried to incorporate what this means to me as I know the outdoors influences and pushes the brand.

Your work is fluid, never really leaning on the abstract nor the concrete. How do you define your work?

I would describe my artwork as fluid too. Hard to define. It is a unity of colour, shapes and composition of positive and negatives spaces. My work has changed so much over the years and I would say my thought process and method have become more simple over time. This freedom can be seen in my artwork I feel.



In the same way, your work has been featured on both men and womens clothing; is it important to you to be a female artist and well-represented?

Yes, of course. I grew up looking up to my mother, who is also an artist, super independent and taught me to be the same way. As a female artist, I like to create artwork and products that are not bound by gender.



You hand-painted each and every one of those COMME des GARÇONS GIRL purses! The messaging in that project is so precise, especially in today’s social climate. Can you tell us more about that collaboration and its impact?

Firstly, meeting Rei Kawakubo in person was an unforgettable experience, and I truly appreciate getting the chance to work with COMME des GARÇONS. One of my favourite brands. The project came together quite naturally. The message is simple and powerful – perhaps a little like my artwork, you could say. The bag itself has been well received and is now part of the core collection.

What can we hope to see from you in the future?

As mentioned earlier there are few more exciting projects in the works. I am keen on exploring working with silk-screen more and more, making a book of my artwork and having more exhibitions outside of Japan.