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Media Release

For Immediate Release | January 17, 2018

Shifts in Japanese Materiality

The Japan Foundation, Sydney presents Shifts in Japanese Materiality, an exhibition of contemporary works by experimental Japanese and Australian designers, curated by Bic Tieu. From ceramics through to jewellery, the exhibiting works explore the changing nature of Japan’s object-making culture in a global context.

In partnership with the Sydney Design Festival, the exhibition runs February 2 to March 17, 2018 at The Japan Foundation Gallery.


Shifts in Japanese Materiality
February 2 – March 17, 2018

Japan’s artisan world remained largely unchanged for centuries by maintaining a rigid tradition that prescribes materials and creative processes. However, cross-cultural influences and dialogues have given Japan’s object-making culture a new transnational identity in contemporary experimental design.

Shifts in Japanese Materiality will share a contemporary narrative of Japanese materiality by illuminating the relationships between materials, processes, training, and contemporary practice.

Exhibiting designers include Julie Bartholomew (ceramics), Guy Keulemans (experimental object), Rui Kikuchi (jewellery), Kyoko Hashimoto (jewellery), Liam Mugavin (furniture), Yusuke Takemura (glass), and Bic Tieu (jewellery).

Exhibition curator and designer Bic Tieu says,

I use Japanese maki-e lacquer techniques in my jewellery and object designs. This led me to question the influence of Japanese materials on my practice and explore the connection between material and design among experimental makers who integrate traditional Japanese techniques with their work.

Join the artists for the opening reception on Friday, February 2 from 6pm. The exhibition will be complemented by an event program, featuring talks, a workshop and a demonstration.

Yusuke Takemura, Untitled, 2016, 440x160x160 

Bic Tieu, Small Box, 2010, maki-e.

Talk & Demonstration

Jewellery Making with Rui Kikuchi
Saturday, February 3 | 1pm – 2:30pm

Kyoto-based Rui Kikuchi combines refuse (PET bottles and nails) with precious metals in her contemporary jewellery designs. With organic imagery, her choice of materials references our consumption of natural resources and imposition of synthetic materials on the environment. The delicate craftship of Kikuchi’s metalwork offers the designer opportunities for technical and material exploration, as seen in the spectrum of her experimental and fine jewellery practice.

In this event, Kikuchi will talk about her practice and demonstrate her jewellery making techniques.

Rui Kikuchi, PET Series, 2015. Photo supplied by artist.


Eggshell and Lacquerware Workshop
With Bic Tieu
Saturday, March 3 | 10:30am – 1pm

Experience the process of Japanese lacquerware design firsthand and learn about the craft of lacquer and eggshell inlay in this workshop led by Bic Tieu. You will work with eggshell and lacquer to overlay a pendant form and create a pattern with these materials. The workshop will give you insight into this traditional craft and a better understanding of the surface language of lacquerware while using natural materials specific to Japan.

Material fees apply; bookings essential.

Panel Talk

Designers Discuss Japanese Materiality
Thursday, March 8 | 6:30pm – 8pm

Join exhibiting designers Julie Bartholomew, Guy Keulemans, Yusuke Takemura and Bic Tieu in discussing the influence of Japanese materiality in their contemporary practices. In dialogue with exhibition Shifts in Japanese Materiality, this panel talk will share the experiences and processes of object designers, spanning ceramics, glass, lacquerware, and jewellery.

Japanese materiality is often considered untouched and bound to tradition, but contemporary object design practice expands the long history of porous global influences and highlights the fluid nature of Japanese materiality.


Bic Tieu is a Sydney-based designer and maker of jewellery, wearables and small objects. Inspired by Asian aesthetics and sensibilities, she places traditional Japanese lacquer (maki-e) techniques within a western conception of jewellery design.

An Associate Lecturer at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Art & Design, Tieu is a PhD candidate at Australian National University, Canberra, and holds a Masters of Design from UNSW. Tieu undertook a two-year residency at the world-famous Kitamura Koubou Studios in Wajima, immersing in the rich tradition of Japanese lacquerware to hone her skills through traditional training.

Teiu exhibits within Australia and Asia, and maintains a research practice. Her work has been awarded grants and residency programs including Asialink and the Australia Council for the Arts.


Guy Keulemans is a multidisciplinary designer, artist and researcher working on product design, graphics, installation and sustainability theory. He produces critical objects informed by history, philosophy and experimental methodology. The major themes of his works are repair, generative processes, and the environmental concerns of production and consumption.

Keulemans has a Masters in Humanitarian Design from the Design Academy Eindhoven and a PhD from the University of New South Wales’ Art & Design, where he also lectures. He has exhibited in museums and galleries in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Poland, including ARS Electronica, the Marres Centre for Contemporary Culture, COCA Torun and Platform 21, and in Australia, at Object, Craft ACT and Craft Victoria.


Born in Japan, Yusuke Takemura currently lives and works in Australia.  His innovative methods are a daring fusion of traditional technique with contemporary knowledge that he has developed to translate ideas concerning human experience, history and place. Takemura’s intriguing, poetic forms are subtle investigations of making the invisible world visible that belie the technical virtuoso of the artist.

In 2006, Takemura completed his Bachelor degree in glass from Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts. Under the guidance and training of internationally renowned glass artist Toshio Iezumi, Takemura developed a highly skilled technique of glass surface treatment and cutting.

In 2009, Takemura continued his studies in Australia, completing a Masters Degree from The University of Sydney. During this concentrated period of studio research Takemura honed his highly specialised skill, of cutting precarious organic shapes through fragile glass forms, into a strong, highly individualistic visual language.

Takemura has been awarded several major prizes, most recently in 2011 The AusGlass Vicky Torr Memorial Prize, The AusGlass Sabbia Gallery Solo Exhibition Prize and shortlisted for the prestigious Ranamok Glass Prize.


Julie Bartholomew is an artist and educator in ceramics, currently Head Ceramics Workshop, School of Art and Design, Australian National University. Her practice explores contemporary issues including consumer culture, particularly the relationship between female identity and global branding within the context of western and eastern cultures. She has participated in residencies and exhibitions in Australia and abroad including an international travelling exhibition titled Zhongjian: Midway, alongside well-known Chinese and Australian artists.

Bartholomew has been the recipient of numerous awards including four Australia Council for the Arts New Work Grants, the Tokyo Studio Residency, Australia-China Council Red Gate Residency in Beijing and the Asialink Taiwan Residency for 2009. After receiving an Australian Post-Graduate Award, Bartholomew completed her Doctorate at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW in 2006. In the same year she was the winner of the International Gold Coast Ceramics Award. Bartholomew’s work has been collected internationally by significant art galleries including the National Gallery of Australia and the Yingge Ceramics Museum in Taiwan.


Japan-based Liam Mugavin is a conceptual and contemporary maker who designs and produces furniture, lighting and interior commissions. His practice adopts a progressive, hands-on approach to eliminate the boundaries between design, concept and craft.

After studying a Bachelor of Industrial Design at the University of South Australia, Mugavin worked in northern Japan for 4 years. In 2013, he returned to Adelaide to establish his studio and train at the Jam Factory. In 2015, Mugavin won the $20k Clarance Prize for Excellence in Furniture Design and was the back-to-back winner of the Emerging South Australian Designer Award. Having gained national recognition and a wide client base, the studio relocated to Sydney and works on products, commissions, interior design and fit-outs in Australia and Japan.

Mugavin’s works have been exhibited in Australia and Japan. He recently developed a series of furniture for the Australia House in Japan during his artist residency, a program supported by the Australian Embassy.


Kyoto-born Rui Kikuchi moved to Sydney as a child and spent her formative years in Australia. She studied a Bachelor of Visual Arts, majoring in Object Art and Design at the University of Sydney’s Sydney College of the Arts. In 2008, she returned to Japan and attended the Itami College of Jewellery in Hyogo Prefecture. Her works have been widely exhibited throughout the Asia Pacific and Europe, and is part of a collection at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

Her works have been published most recently in the ‘Compendium of Contemporary Jewellery Makers’, by Darling Publications in Cologne, 2009,  ‘Workbench Guide to Jewellery Techniques’, by Thames and Hudson, London, 2010 and ‘500 Gemstone Jewels’, by Lark Books, New York, 2010.

She volunteered in Japan during post-2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and later travelled around the world. After returning to Japan, she established her studio and the jewellery brand Atelier Rubijoux (Rubijukoubou) in Kyoto.


Sydney-based Kyoto Hashimoto was born in Japan and migrated to Australia at aged ten. She studied jewellery making at the University of Sydney’s College of Fine Arts in Sydney and later moved to Tokyo where she practiced jewellery making and design. In Berlin, Hashimoto co-founded the concept store, We Are All Made of Stuff as a platform to promote young jewellery and object designers from around the globe.

Falling in between jewellery design and conceptual art and sculpture, Hashimoto’s works are concerned with evoking emotion through the use of light, colour, translucency and refraction. She is interested in the personal history of objects, as well as material origins of processed and raw materials. Her design work revolves around concepts and she takes an approach that is tactile, intuitive and experimental.

Editor’s Notes
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  • For high-resolution images, please contact us.


The Japan Foundation Gallery
Level 4, Central Park
28 Broadway, Chippendale 2008
(Access via lifts)

Gallery Hours

Mon-Thu: 10am-8pm
Fri: 10am-6pm
Sat: 10am-3pm (excl. February 3)

Closed Sundays and public holidays

Media Enquiries

Jessica Chow
(02) 8239 0055


All events (except workshop) are free. No bookings required. Limited capacity; first-come, first-served.

Doors open 30 mins before the events start.

Workshop Material Fees

$25* for general admission
$20* for JPF members
Online bookings open February 2.

General Enquiries

(02) 8239 0055

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