Artist Spotlight // Eri Luman

Tell us about your art, your background and what inspires you?

I am from the small town of Kagoshima, Japan. I started learning Japanese
calligraphy at age seven. As a child, I was not particularly interested in calligraphy; it was just something to do. I remember that the process of learning was not fun for me. It involved copying text, followed by practice, practice, and more practice. In high School, I joined the calligraphy club at the urging of my friend. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. However, the experience turned out to be more than I expected, and by mounting scrolls, carving seals, and learning other aspects of calligraphy, it expanded my appreciation of this art form.

Hearts by Eri Luman

How did you create your unique calligraphy style?

When I came to the US as a college student, one day I saw my friend’s father, a carpenter, throwing away pieces of wood. I watched him walk by with his arms full of wood and saw the pile getting bigger. I thought, “What a waste! There must be some way I can use those scraps!” Happily, he gave me the wood and I made my very first mixed media art piece. That was my very first opportunity to reflect on my newfound freedom from Japanese cultural norms. Since then, I have painted on different materials.

At college, I took pastel and oil painting classes. I did not like wasting left over paint, so I used the oil paint on the pallet to make prints. When I saw the beautiful colors on paper, I was inspired to paint calligraphy on top of the colors. It was the beginning of blending the worlds black and white and color. I love colors, so incorporating the color spectrum lead me deeper into this new colorful world. It was there that I began to understand the cultural barriers of traditional calligraphy and combined these two worlds by going beyond tradition to create something original.

Immediately upon moving to Oregon, I made a space in between still unopened boxes and started to paint. I moved my arm and let the brush run with the freedom that I felt. There was no text and no structure; I just followed my feelings. Then, all of a sudden, I felt that I was being carried along by something…a strong energy. I was dancing with the energy and the brush was dancing on the paper. Then, in that moment, I was struck by the idea that “calligraphy is meditation.” I knew that I found the answer I was looking for and suddenly felt at peace with my conflict with the rigidity of Japanese calligraphy that I had been holding on to. I had wondered why calligraphy never really left me….at that moment I understood why.

I focused on becoming one with the brush stroke. It was the beginning of my Meditation Art. I started teaching Meditation Art after demonstrating it at the Portland Japanese Garden. Teaching non-Japanese people was very interesting and also an eye-opening experience as I put into practice my long-held belief that the traditional way cannot be the only way. I had to think of a method that was simple, but detailed, yet also effective for students to understand the structure of the characters, as well as the way that calligraphy conveys tradition. Eventually, I created my own teaching handbook for meditation calligraphy.

Live This Moment by Eri Luman

How does VIDA impact your work as an artist and designer?

By transferring my art to VIDA products, which are practical, everyday items, my art receives a certain new life each time it is used. It does not stay on the wall, but moves about, making its own connections. VIDA gave me new possibilities for my art and my inspiration poured forth. Ways to look at my art changed. I started to see my art in its parts. I now see the parts of the whole art piece as more important than before. I look closely and see each stroke as art in itself. I can also cut out the parts I like and rearrange, emphasize, and express the original art differently. By seeing my art with new eyes, I am inspired. Inspirational art gives me further inspiration and it goes on like a chain reaction of art creation. It is amazing. My art creates more of my art. Mother art creates baby art… and the baby art takes on its own life as VIDA products. It is a wonderful feeling. Also, my untraditional way of using color with black and white fits so well with the VIDA products that it encourages me to explore even more. VIDA carries my art beyond the canvas…it becomes a walking art show!

Water by Eri Luman

What made you want to explore art- inspired fashion?

I have always been interested in fashion and fabric. I am drawn, not to the major brands, but to unique items that I connect with. This makes me feel good. One’s chosen fashion itself is a palette of who you are, but it should also feel comfortable. In addition, fashion is itself art, uniquely beautiful and inspirational. Combining fashion and art is truly natural for me and I always wanted to express my art this way.

Love Pillow by Eri Luman

How do you think VIDA is different from other choices out there?

VIDA provides excitement in my life as an artist when I am encouraged to explore ways to express myself through art using many different materials. I am encouraged to explore my own art at a deeper level, as well as inspired to create new art. I also find it significant that VIDA products are things we use in daily life. We should all find joy in the little things. In addition, VIDA’s mission to support the lives of the producers of our goods is meaningfully different from most companies. Education and empowerment programs, such as literacy, financial training, and women’s rights workshops, are invaluable to these individuals. I am happy to be a part of this.

Explore Eri Luman’s VIDA Collection