Staining friend’s hands with dandelion heads and blowing their wispy seeds are a common childhood pastime and a simple joy that Shota Suzuki channels in his delicately constructed sculptures. The Kyoto-based artist painstakingly carves copper, brass, and silver into barbed leaves and feathery seeds to recreate the ubiquitous herbs in each state of bloom and decay.
To tarnish the textured metals and alter their colors, Suzuki uses combinations of vinegar, copper sulfate, and acetic acid to create purples and blues. For the black components, he oxidizes pieces in dissolved sulfur. Suzuki’s coloring techniques are rooted in traditional Japanese patina methods including niiro, which historically used daikon juices to alter the metal, and are the most demanding part of his process. “The chemical modification is very sensitive and is affected by everything from the weather conditions to the dirt on my hands. It’s hard to make the same color every time,” he says in an interview with Kyoto Journal.
Each dandelion is the product of hours of research, which begins while Suzuki walks around his neighborhood and spots weeds in sidewalk cracks or garden flowers. He then works from memory and occasional glimpses of photos of the chosen plant, forgoing sketches and models to create pieces that merge scientific accuracy with the artist’s vision, which he explains:
I’ve never practiced the art of ikebana, but there is an element of it that comes through. My work does not portray a plant as it would be in its natural environment. Rather I manipulate it in a way that I find to be beautiful. I think the composition especially, like the placement and length of the flowers and stems of the plant, is really important. So in that respect, it is rather similar to ikebana.
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