Japanese-American artist Saaya Weaver is a multi-faceted talent. She’s spent the past few years of her creative career channeling energy between fashion and music, while also dabbling in the world of collage and more classic ‘fine art’. Having spent a collective 15 years of her life in Japan, after managing to survive her tumultuous teenage years in the states, her experiences (and anger) have come to shape the abrasive, vibrating energy her work. We spoke to Saaya about jumping between countries and the insanely unpretentious world of Tokyo’s creative scene.
So, give us a quick rundown on yourself.
I’m Saaya Weaver, from New Jersey. I’m also from the 99 islands of southern Japan, specifically Sasebo, but I like to tell people I’m from New Jersey mainly because there isn’t a diaspora of my people there. I think it’s important for me to be from New Jersey, I hope people can relate to me in that way. Right now I live in Tokyo, but not for too long.
Where do you live, tell us about your neighborhood.
I live right outside of Shibuya and Nakameguro. I think it’s convenient that I live walking distance from any poppin’ neighborhood. But lately I’ve been enjoying the residential neighborhoods where I can talk to the lady at the market for 30 minutes about where the carrots are grown. Small talk like that makes a huge impact on my life.
Has growing up between the US and Japan influenced your perspective on identity and cultural norms?
I actually grew up in Japan and moved to American during junior high school, during an important time in my life where I was burning stuff for fun while listening to Green Day. Basically I was angry and confused all the time. Still am, but that’s where it all started.
Living in the white suburbs of New Jersey as an immigrant was tough. I’d see and hear all types of nonsense thrown at my Japanese mother. So it was shit like that that made me feel alienated. The lack of a cultural nest for me made me wish my mom made me PB&Js for lunch instead of bento or decorated the house for Christmas.
Back then I wanted to assimilate, but now I’m like, “Fuck that”. Now I’m eating bentos all day. I’m chillin’. It’s so important for me to be in Tokyo right now. There was a point in my life where I spent a lot of time hustling for tips by engaging in conversations with people at an ice cream shop in Manhattan.
Your most recent work is an insanely detailed self-portrait, what was your motivation?
The question I’d like to answer is, “who pissed you off enough to paint that?” Nah, I’m playin’, but if I’m being transparent for the sake of being ‘real,’ anger fuels me. I never really took myself seriously as an artist. Now I’m comfortable with calling myself an artist because I am a creator. My creative outlets are through music and fashion, but fine art has always been a part of me. You know, I’ve done t-shirts and flyers for bands but I needed to grow up a bit.
I do a lot of drawing and collage work using markers and stickers and junky supplies but I recently hit the jackpot and was able to afford oil paints! When I started the painting, I was vulnerable. I’ve always had a hard shell and I’d never cry, but recently I’ve learned to cry, I’ve learned to suck, and I’ve learned to love. It’s about all that.
How long did it take?
What’s the best thing about Japan both personally and creatively?
Japan has the best food and best people. You can get everything done in a konbini [convenience store] and the trains run smooth, which helps keep my daily flow organized and efficient.
Creative wise, I love how next level yet unpretentious everybody is. Maybe because it’s mostly a homogenous society there isn’t that certain type of ‘hustle’ people in America feel like they need to embrace to be heard, but still, when it comes to talent and creative vision, everyone here is next level.
And the worst?
The daily earthquakes, I don’t really fuck with. Creative wise, I guess there are less community-based places where people can get together and collaborate. Space is limited here so there aren’t any open studios, or work spaces that are cheap. Also, Tokyo is big as hell and I wished all my friends lived in the same neighborhood.
If space is difficult to find, where do you do your work?
I work wherever I can, mostly at home. I rented out my friends studio in Nakameguro to paint with oils for a while.
What are you working on that we should look out for?
You’re experiencing the calm before the storm.
- Images courtesy of: Saaya Weaver