Eunoia, Playlist and Conversation with Yuki Yamasaki of mrak – March 2023

The word eunoia means beautiful thinking or having a ‘well mind.’ I first spoke to Yuki Yamasaki of mrak several years ago. She, like me, was curious to know what my name meant and since then, it has lingered in my mind that Yuki translates to happiness.  She is subtle in her ways of expression, choosing to live at the foot of a mountain in Fukuoka City, Japan where she can indulge in beauty offered by nature through all four seasons. Moved by the waterfalls and wildflowers surrounding her home, she carries this sensibility into her craft, and often creates spaces where people can enjoy her work and that of the vanishing tribes. Eunoia.

Please enjoy this playlist she put together for us as you read her story.

(Visit mrak on Instagram)

 

1.How would you like to introduce yourself?

Hello everyone, my name is Yuki Yamasaki and I run a brand called “mrak” in Japan. I am 35 years old. It has been 5 years since I launched my brand. I have also been making my own accessories for about 12 years.

Focusing on the material culture of hill tribes, such as their personal adornments and tools used in daily life mrak seeks to reproduce, continue, and revitalize their traditional craftsmanship in order to increase interest in and value of their skills, sensitivities, and traditional culture.

2. Nice to meet you, Yuki. Before we go on, where does the word mrak originate from and what does it mean to you?

It is a long story, but I named the brand when I was 25 or 26 years old, when the direction of the brand was not yet set as it is today; therefore, the brand name has nothing to do with the ethnic minorities in Southeast Asia. However, I had already started using this name for my brand, and I continue to use it today because of the emotional attachment I have to the name.

Before I was 24 years old, the first jewelry I encountered was Native American jewelry. As I researched, I discovered that the engravings and symbols had meanings, and I was particularly attracted to the “rain cloud” motif. (Rain clouds = good omen, good luck, abundance).

At the age of 24, I began making accessories using various beads. Eventually at around the age of 26, I found antique beads which had an impact on me, and they were from the Czech Republic.

The Czech beads gave me an idea of the direction of my work and brand, and I came up with the idea of naming my brand in the Czech language. In Czech, rain cloud = mrak.

I felt that the moist atmosphere of rain clouds was in harmony with the brand’s worldview. I also contemplated about what is the essential richness of life, which led me to choose this brand name.

3. What do you wish to communicate through mrak?

As stated in the brand’s philosophy of activity, the brand aims to promote interest in and value of the skills, sensitivities, and traditional culture of the ethnic minorities living in the mountainous regions. Their spirit is simple, warm and rich. I feel that we city dwellers have much to learn from them..

I hope that this activity will be an opportunity for all of us, including myself, to think and remember once again that the essential richness is different from material wealth.

simplicity of the hilltribes by mrak on girl gone authentic

4. You have a very rich collection of rare crafts. Do you remember the first object that sparked your passion for collecting to preserve?

When I was 24 years old and knew nothing about ethnic minorities, the first thing I encountered were 14 sided silver beads made by the Karen people.

I had never heard of the Karen or of any other hill tribe, so I simply fell in love with the beauty of the beads at first sight.

I then searched for more information about these beads, and the first book I came across was Peoples of the Golden Triangle: Six Tribes in Thailand by Paul Lewis.

I was struck by their free, colorful, beautiful traditional costumes and the beautiful things they made. I began to research them more and more, and here I am today.

5. I notice that you have a sensitivity for South East Asia hill tribe people and craftsmanship ‒ what led you there?

The answer is similar to the previous question, but it all started when I was 24 years old, when I met a man who was a dealer of antique beads. He owned antique beads and folk art from all over the world and often went on local buying trips.

I first came across a 14-sided silver bead made by the Karen people in his workshop, and since then I have seen and studied all kinds of beads, folk art, books, and other objects of cultural value that I had never seen before. He is like a mentor to me. He scolded me for my inexperience in trying to get simple answers. He knew how important it was to do my own research in books and other sources, make repeated mistakes, and go to the site to see for myself. 

In response to questions that arose in the process of exploration, I continued to search for books, research, and actually visit the site despite my failures.

He taught me the importance of finding answers on my own, correcting my course, and opening up a path, even while making mistakes.

6. That is quite a lesson. Could you share how mrak serves the community?

As my brand is a very small business/activity, I am not sure if I am contributing to the community.

For ethnic minorities, traditionally designed jewelry and everyday items embody their identity and history.

I would like to preserve these disappearing traditional designs and craftsmanship in intangible forms, such as materials and images, and at the same time, by reprinting them, we hope to leave them behind as tangible objects for future generations.

I believe that the decline of various wonderful crafts, traditional techniques, and cultures is a common problem that is occurring all over the world.

I’m hoping that the value of such beautiful things will be rediscovered, enhanced, and carefully preserved.

7. As a crafts(wo)man who is required to constantly be intentional with her work, how would you say mrak has helped you develop yourself?

Through mrak, we have met many wonderful customers and shoppers.

If a product needs to be repaired, we can review the structure and improve it to make it a better product; I am also given the opportunity to come up with and implement new designs and structures when requested by shops.

Through the accumulation of these experiences, I have refined myself and my brand.

In order to realize and refine the images and designs in my head, the relationships with the people I have met through mrak are indispensable.

If I had not started mrak, I would not have encountered these people, and I would not have grown to be who I am now.

8. That said, what does a ‘perfect’ day look like for you?

I wake up early in the morning and slowly drink plain hot water while soaking up the morning sun, then I brew a cup of coffee to start my day. After cleaning my room neatly, I hang my bedding in the sun. For lunch, I lay out a rug in the yard and enjoy a short picnic.

After finishing our work, a good kind of tiredness envelops our whole body by the evening.

We carefully prepare dinner with plenty of vegetables, and I enjoy a meal with my husband.

I soak in a bathtub filled with plenty of hot water to relieve the fatigue of the day. I then use my favorite massage oil and wrap my whole body in the delicious aroma of herbs. After that, I get into a freshly dried fluffy futon to finish the day.

Spending time carefully and healthily, I feel a little happiness and luxury throughout the day.

That is the “perfect” day for me.

9. Is there anything that you would like to pass on to the future generation who might be
interested in craftsmanship and preservation?

It takes a lot of time and patience to keep exploring one thing.
You may fail, you may get lost, but don’t give up, believe in yourself, and keep facing what is
important to you. And enjoy the process.

After you persevere, a new you will be waiting for you, one that has overcome the obstacles and
grown. That is the real start.

By continuing to think and act, many joys and rewards await you

Mrak Japan - Girl Gone Authentic interview

Yuki, thank you for sharing a piece of you with us. 

Interview: Khumo ya ga Seamogano

Words: Yuki, translated from Japanese and proofread by Sheena Miyake

Images: mrak

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top