Artist Interview No.7 – ナガモトマイ- 後編

Artist Interview No.7 - Mai Nagamoto - Part 2


This is the second part of the interview with Mai Nagamoto.
In the second part of the interview, she talks about her work with soft vinyl, which is a little different from her artistic expression, and about the works that are dear to her heart. Here you go!

A group exhibition
D o N o K o ? Vol.2

at @noma__official

Johnny Akihito Noda





これまでの作品NEA (強さ)、innocent & core (感動)、 shincaso (希望) に続き、FUTENEKOの裏コンセプトは(癒)になります。




-In addition to paintings, you also make soft vinyl figures. They have a different flavor from the paintings, don’t they?

It’s not just “cute!”, it’s also a bit “annoying”. To be more specific, I wanted to express something like strength of will, or the “toughness” I talked about in the first part.

And by the way, I can sum it up in words,

Wild cats who live strong
Domestic cats who want to be cared for
Shelter cats waiting to be adopted

Following the previous works NEA (strength), innocent & core (excitement), and shincaso (hope), the concept behind FUTENEKO will be (healing).

FUTENEKO is a strong and tough wild cat with a sulky face. You can name him if you like.

This is kind of the concept.

The kitten version of this FUTENEKO is called FUTEKONEKO, and now Medicom Toy is going to release it as a product for Gacha Gacha. Rather than designing a character for the sake of creating a character, I’ve taken a painting and made it into a three-dimensional figure.

the orthodox model
the model on the right is the GACHA GACHA model

FUTENEKO has been made into soft vinyl in various forms. Even when compared to the orthodox model on the left, the design is slightly different for each line sold, showing her ingenuity.



-It looks lovely..!

Hahaha. Isn’t it cute?
Since it’s a Gacha Gacha item, Medicom wanted to make it look like the paper illustration inside, and they also wanted to make a different type of Fucheneko, so this is how it turned out.
I hope that the healing will also spread, because it is something that can be easily obtained for 500 yen, and I think that the number of people who will pick it up will increase considerably as it becomes a gacha-gacha again..



-As for the soft vinyl, how much volume are you producing?

I do all the work myself, and my latest work is my fourth, and it has been the biggest hit so far, with over 500 applications in the first two hours of its release. Originally, the market rate for soft vinyl was 30 to 50 pieces per product, but since we want our products to be in the hands of many people, we are making over 100 pieces. However, if we make too many of them, we run into a lot of problems..



-I’m going to ask straight out, does it mean that the value will decrease?

This is one aspect, but the problem is resale. Items that are sold second-hand, including resale, are called secondary. When a product is purchased by people who are just like resellers, the way it is sold for resale becomes a mess.
In the secondary market as well, there are clever people who can increase the value of an artist’s work if it is sold at the right time and at the right price, but if it is sold in a malicious manner with the intention of the reseller, the value of the work as well as the value of the artist will drop. For this reason, I also handle the coordination of sales, which is normally done behind the scenes.
First and foremost, I want to deliver the works to the people who really want them.





-So, to begin with, soft vinyl is seen as an art form…!

There is a point where the times are turning figures into art. But it’s hard to recognize them as art, isn’t it? Because art is much, much more sensitive.

Figurines are handed over to the factory for reproduction, but there are hundreds of the same color figures that are made. So at that point, I feel that they are close to products.
As long as I don’t get too worked up about it, it can be produced in large quantities, and to a certain extent it is less fragile than glass or ceramics. It may not be the best way to put it, but it is business-like.

This is for the market, which is looking for ease of handling and commerciality, and figures are just toys. For me, figures cannot be described as art.
However, I think it is necessary to stay close to the times, and I make figures with the awareness that I am living in those times.



-How did you start making figures?

One of my acquaintances from about 15 years ago is an artist named T9G who makes his own figures, and I was influenced by him.
I’ve always been interested in this, so I thought I’d give it a try if I could.



-By the way, do you define it as art when it’s a prototype made by you alone?

That’s what I was thinking at first, but when you actually sell your work as a product, you see a lot of aspects other than creativity, and you are involved in things other than “creating”. There’s so much more to it than just the creation, that it’s hard to call it art when you’re aware of it…



-I see. Of all the artists I’ve talked to so far, you’ve created works that have a particularly strong emotional aspect, but you’re still thinking about how to monetize them and make a living.

Yes. I can’ t go on with just a pretty face. But that’s normal, isn’t it?




-Yes, I think so. Money is essential, at least as long as we live in society, and I believe that artists need to survive as private business owners. But for some reason, there’s an aspect of it that many people don’t like, saying that it shouldn’t be a topic.

It’s definitely not like that. That’s the world of the rich, the blessed, and those with sponsors. I don’t have such a thing, so… I face my dreams while looking at the reality.

Of course, when I was younger, there was a time when I thought that money was not important, but that changed when I had a moment.





-What happened?

One of the organizers of an exhibition praised my work and asked me if he could have it, and also asked me to exhibit my work, which made me happy, so at the time I was like, “Thank you!” so I gave away my work for free.
At the time, I was being told the same thing in all kinds of places, and I thought that was how it was supposed to be, and that by repeating this kind of thing, I would get ahead. Looking back now, it doesn’t really make sense…

However, my sense of value changed one day when I got a customer who was very impressed with my work and even made a purchase.

I was ignorant and inexperienced at the time, but was that person who said he wanted my art really a good person? Was he supporting me? That’s what I think lol
I had a lot of experiences like that, and that’s why I’m here now lol




-It’s a story that makes your heart flutter because the distribution system is unregulated. That’s why you’ re now able to express yourself and make a living at the same time, isn’t it?

That’s right! The work “Sincaso” is the work that made me realize that my expression and my life are properly connected. I put a lot of passion into this work, but to my surprise, only two of them were sold when I released it…
I was shocked and depressed because at the time I thought “I had created something amazing!” I was depressed for a while, but then I realized that I couldn’t go on like this, so I studied painting techniques very hard lol
I started painting 100 bodies a day, improved my airbrush skills, and worked on my colors…and it sold…!lol

I didn’t misjudge the timing or direction of my efforts this time!
I understand that cats could be sold because they have a wide market, but when Sincaso was sold, I was confident that I could finally bring him to life! It gave me confidence!

Sincaso. To be honest, the naming and appearance had a great impact on me, but when I heard the background, I saw it in a different way.



-That something with so much originality can also be sold lol

I believe that this episode can be a dream for young people who want to achieve something. It does take some effort to really face it, though! Lol
I was able to be positive about painting because of the fact that Sincaso was successful. I think there is something that goes along with the story of how hard experiences in the past can be used in the present…





-What is the background of the work that drove you to this level of effort?

As for the name of the work, I think it’s a very precious time for children to mistake the katakana letters “n” and “so,” and my son’s name is Shinnosuke, so that’s how I came up with the name of my personal work.

In addition, since it was made around March 11th, there was a story about a monster that was born from a special mutation of plants and bulbs due to radiation… In short, it was a message to my own children that I wanted them to grow up strong no matter how harsh the situation. I was even more shocked that it didn’t sell.

But that was the reality, so I knew that this was where I had to work hard.



-There was a bit of a heavy context to it.

The Great East Japan Earthquake had something on my mind as well. The picture I drew at that time is the one that I am most attached to. I drew the scenery of the tsunami that I saw on TV with all my emotions, but it was too abstract to be conveyed at all.
I was told by a photographer who takes pictures of natural disasters, etc., that I should leave behind my thoughts of the present because things are going to be very difficult, so I drew this picture on impulse, but it turned out to be abstract.
I myself think that painting is the most wonderful of all my other works, but if I compare this to Sincaso, I think I have tried to make it much more approachable as a form.
In the end, the painting didn’t sell, but some people were moved by what they saw, and since it was my honest expression, I’m glad it did.

This is a painting done at the time of the earthquake. It was certainly abstract, and as a beginner, it was difficult for me to figure out what the theme was just from my first impression. Even so, there is something impulsive about it.




-Expression is very difficult, isn’t it? It requires creativity and ingenuity so that it does not become a one-way street, and the definition of value depends on the person…

When I went abroad for an exhibition, there was a time when a lady who was collecting garbage followed me and tried to take away my works lol
There was also a case where a rather large piece of art was stopped at customs because it was treated as trash…. I’ve come to the point where I don’t like to talk about how important appearance is, but it’s also something essential.

Although it is called “art,” what we do is a business that is universally the same, so I am careful not to misunderstand that.
There are many times when I feel like I’m making a mistake, but when I think about the fact that I’m here after cutting out a lot of things compared to the people who take the train to work every day, I still think that I shouldn’t be wrong.





-Finally, what is your vision for the future?

I myself have been saved many times in my life by paintings.
For me, a painting is a living, important benefactor that asks questions and stays close to my heart beyond being a painting.
When I came across a painting by Sam Francis a long time ago, I am not exaggerating, it saved my life.

In the future, I would like to become a great painter who can help people with mental and physical disabilities through painting. In order to achieve this, I would like to keep a close eye on reality and grow so that I don’t make mistakes in what I face.

*Sam Francis: A French painter in the vein of Abstract Expressionism, died in 1994. His unique composition using blank spaces is said to be influenced by Zen and Japanese art, based on his experience of visiting Japan.


That was my interview with Mai Nagamoto!
Throughout the entire interview, I thought that art can be a way to help the weakness and pain.
In Japan, I suppose that manga, anime, music, etc. are often the receptacles for such things, but it is still expression, and the process of creating works with emotional themes must be a hard thing to squeeze yourself into.

そんな多様な作品が同居する「Do No Ko? Vol.2」は必見ですね。

In the previous article, I talked about how END, who works on the flyers for Hardcore, works on art without regard to money for a scene that is close to his own, and there was an episode that reminded me of the opposite position. However, it is not a question of which is the right answer, but merely a difference in methodology, which is why the works are so different, but equally powerful in their appeal.
“Do No Ko ? Vol. 2″ is a must-see, with such a variety of works living together.

さて次回はロウブロウアーティストのJohnny Akihito Nodaさんです。

Next time, we will be looking at Johnny Akihito Noda, a lowbrow artist.
We’ll take a closer look at his strange, cool, and American art. Enjoy!

文:THAT IS GOOD編集部 古賀
TEXT : THAT IS GOOD editorial department, Koga


Mai nagamoto / ナガモトマイ

Instagram / 販売アカウント / HP


She has loved painting since she was a child, and is now self-taught.
Based on her own life, she expresses the innocence and purity that we all had as children, and the gloom that appears in the corners of our minds as we grow older, using pop colors and contrasting deep, dark colors and shapes.
Since 2002, she has held solo exhibitions at galleries and events in Japan and abroad. She has also participated in live painting and auctions using only the palm of her hand.
(Hong Kong. Shanghai. Singapore. Taiwan. Thailand. San Francisco, LA, etc.), as well as product planning and supervision, collaboration with companies, and since 2014, modeling, painting, and sales of soft vinyl figures, she has been ambitiously expanding the scope of her activities to include the commercial field.