Shogun Designs is a new company in the UK that aims to help people obtain affordable and accessible art work to hang in your home. We had the pleasure of spending some time with Andre, the Director of Shogun Designs, to find out more about him, his artwork and company.
Tell us about yourself Andre.
Despite looking Latino and having a French name, I am in fact half Japanese/half American. I was born in Yokohama, Japan, although as a young boy, my family moved to London. I was subsequently brought up and schooled here in the UK so, just to confuse matters, I also feel British. However, my multi-cultural background has always been a blessing as it allows me to pick and choose the traits I admire most and I have never let go of my multi-cultural roots. Although predominantly western in my sensibilities, typically Japanese characteristics such as an intrinsic love of beauty, design and quality, hold real sway with me.
What is your background in art and what led you to create Shogun Designs?
Even though I have unfortunately never been able to draw or paint, my immediate family have always been fond of the arts and it is an environment I was fortunate to have grown up in. My passion for Japanese textiles, you could say, has been inherited to me through the Japanese line of my mother’s family. My grandfather descended from the noble Aoki and Senzawa families, both famous for their long and proud histories in the design, fabrication and sales of Japanese fabrics, dating all the way back to the Edo period in Japan with strong connections to feudal Kyoto and Imperial Tokyo.
The Aoki family created unique pieces heralded by the Imperial family as national treasures due to their exquisite beauty and the immense artistic talent involved. My Senzawa ancestors were more renowned for their heritage in the traditional printing, dyeing, manufacture and retail businesses supplying hand-crafted silk kimono to the Imperial and noble classes. Still today, my family continues to refine their craft, using ancient and modified modern techniques, creating and sharing their exquisite fabrics across Japan.
It was my grandmother who gave me my first screen print years ago depicting a colourful flock of delicate Japanese cranes migrating for the winter. I was intrigued by the craftsmanship and the ancient traditions ever present in the modern printing world and still today remain in awe of the refined beauty of this piece with its elegant line drawing and essential harmony of colours. With this in mind, the idea of bringing beautiful, high quality but affordable Japanese textile screen prints to the western world was just the next natural step and the idea to set up Shogun Designs came about.
What processes is used to create the artwork?
Screen printing is commonly associated with the likes of Warhol and Lichtenstein, however, it is an ancient Asian technique which is hundreds of years old and is steeped in history. It is believed to have originated in China but it is the Japanese who are widely recognised to have adapted and refined the process.
Each piece has been personally chosen, hand-designed and screen-printed onto high quality woven cotton. Combining ancient techniques with modern technology, Shogun Design screen prints use contemporary but traditional screen-printing stencil-templates, layering different colour upon different colour. They are not computer-generated, identikit digital printouts prevalent in the mass market. All Shogun Designs’ textile screen prints are fabricated using the Japanese ‘Katazome’ method, an ancient technique which creates a uniquely beautiful multi-layered effect, combining depth, texture and colour.
Are all of the materials authentic Japanese materials?
Shogun Designs prides itself on integrity in design, manufacture and execution. Inspired by Japanese aesthetics, traditions and culture, Shogun Designs brings these unique textile screen prints to the UK for the first time. These pieces are 100% “Made in Japan”, a country famous for its excellent quality, precision, attention to detail, perfection and love of beauty. The high quality cotton is loomed in Japanese mills and the ‘Katazome’ technique even uses indigenous natural materials such as bamboo, persimmon and glutinous rice. Once fabricated in Japan, these textile screen prints are transported to the UK where they are all lovingly hand-finished here.
What inspires you?
For me, inspiration comes from everywhere but what really inspires me is the incredible beauty which is created by highly skilled and passionate artisans who constantly strive to perfect their craft. Sadly the appetite for high quality products from the Japanese textile industry is waning as the world is constantly looking for cheaper alternatives. By launching Shogun Designs, I hope to provide an outlet in preserving longstanding traditional methods and beautiful artisanal skills.
Do you have a favourite artistic era in history? Do you have a favourite artist?
That’s a tough question. It is very hard to narrow it down. I have eclectic tastes which depend on my mood at the time. I love Vienna Secession artists such as Klimt and Schiele to Impressionists such as Monet and Cezanne. It was they who were so heavily influenced by Katsushika Hokusai who I greatly admire. At the same time who doesn’t enjoy contemporary artwork by Murakami or Warhol? Different Days. Different moods. Different art. They all give pleasure and enjoyment.
What is next for Shogun Designs?
At present, it is all about bringing the new Shogun Designs Collection to the western world and putting the Shogun word out there. We have a current series of 12 Japanese textile screen prints in three distinct categories: Icons, Legends and Festivals. The unframed classic Icons range, which encompasses well-known and globally recognised Japanese “Ukiyoe” wood block prints; Legends which celebrates the beloved myths and folklore of Japanese culture and finally the limited edition Festivals range of which there only 100 editions.
Each piece has been personally chosen, hand-designed and screen-printed onto high quality woven cotton. With prices from £90 for the Icons to £295 for the x100 Limited Edition Festival range, it is all very much accessible.We also have a few other projects in the pipeline so we hope to expand the Shogun Designs product lines in the not too distant future so watch this space!
Thank you to Andre for taking the time to talk to us about his passion! You can find out more about Shogun Designs and indeed get yourself one of these incredible works of art on their website.