'Cardboard artist' gets boxed in with his creations

September 11, 2012

By TOMOYOSHI KUBO/ Staff Writer

NARA--When Yoshikazu Senkoji gets a present, he's happy even before he opens it and sees what's inside.

“Whenever I receive seasonal gifts, I find myself eagerly checking out the boxes instead of the contents,” he laughs.

Senkoji, 53, makes intricate art objects out of cardboard boxes.

At first glance, one of his creations is a colorful picture-perfect world sitting inside a small frame. But with a simple flick of a switch, the gear and water wheel that were blended into the scenery come alive, moving like animated miniatures with machine parts.

Each of his paper-based tableau is almost divine, tricked out with clever mechanisms, executed with extreme precision. His art fills the viewer with awe.

Senkoji started out as an animation artist. In 1985, he got married, and moved from Tokyo where he was involved in producing television programs for children, to Nara. Naturally, moving his household involved a lot of cardboard boxes. It was the mountain of discarded boxes that changed his direction in life. Senkoji noticed the edges and was struck by “the beauty of uniform wave patterns that repeated themselves over and over in the cross-sections.”

Senkoji thought that the patterns “could be used as gears” if he could carefully pry them apart. But alas, the cardboard paper could not bear up to the stress of spinning and turning; his gears would collapse under pressure. Senkoji refused to be defeated. After numerous attempts of trial and error, he came up with a technique. He applied fast-setting super glue to harden the surface; and meshed same-size wave patterns to reinforce the cogs. He managed to breathe life into his gears. Soon, his gears were spinning away.

Ever since, Senkoji has been turning every piece of cardboard found in his daily life into art. So far he has completed more than 1,000 pieces. He has held exhibitions at science museums and department stores across the nation. He is now known as the “cardboard artist.”

Senkoji needs and uses a wide variety of cardboard material for his projects. He knocks down every box that he can lay his hands on; boxes for sake, confectioneries, electrical appliances and such. He hoards and stocks the pieces, which are filed according to color.

“Anyone can make these (moving art) pieces using ordinary material," he says. "I think it’s an ideal project for kids working on a homework assignment.”

Senkoji makes sure he includes a familiar character such as a robot or a dog in his artwork. It is his one rule and signature touch.

“I want the viewer to come up with their very own stories," he explained. "I want children to look at my work and someday, hope to see someone follow in my footsteps.”

Senkoji held a crafts workshop at Kintetsu department store in Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, in August. Some of his work can be found at http://www.d-papa.jp/

He has published four books including “Ugoku e no omocha" (Toys with moving pictures) from PHP Interface.

By TOMOYOSHI KUBO/ Staff Writer
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Artist Yoshikazu Senkoji never throws out a single box--which could someday end up as a part of his cardboard art projects. (Nanako Ito)

Artist Yoshikazu Senkoji never throws out a single box--which could someday end up as a part of his cardboard art projects. (Nanako Ito)

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  • Artist Yoshikazu Senkoji never throws out a single box--which could someday end up as a part of his cardboard art projects. (Nanako Ito)

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