A Cold Coffee Sunday with Kazuki Kozuru-Salifoska

Well we've finally made it to our inaugural Sunday and I bet you're wondering how it got its name. Have you ever sat down to your morning emails with a cup of Joe. One thing leads to another and next thing you know, you've become totally engrossed in an interesting article or thread. You blindly reach for your mug while reading down to the very last blurb, when it finally reaches your lips *peh* its cold again. :( What an awesome bummer. That's how I rate my articles I guess. :)

So without further ado, I'd like you to meet Kazuki, the woman who inspired me to pick up a doumbek at Pennsic 35.


[J] Have you always been a creative, artistically inclined person?
[Kazuki] Yes. Think as a way to escape the reality, as a child.

[J] How were you introduced to the arts?
[Kazuki] My parents were always blasting music in my childhood - Beatles, Elvis, and ahaha ABBA, along with some Japanese pop singer-song-writer types. I was more interested in the visual arts, since the school supply had the watercolor paints on the 1st grade.

[J] Did your family recognize your talent? How did they foster it…or 
hinder it?
[Kazuki] My parents thought I had no creative talent. They made sure I knew
that growing up.  They thought my younger brother and sister were more
talented.  So, naturally, I spent more time drawing away.

[J] Did you have role models or highly inspirational figures in the art 
field that you looked up to?
[Kazuki] As a child, I loved El Grego's paintings. That subtle distortion
appealed to me. The whole Virgin Mary thing, I had no idea about the
"virgin" bit, but I knew she was the mother of a savior and I loved the way
El Grego painted her. It felt other-worldly.

[J] When did you discover your favorite media? Is your favorite medium the 
“money maker?”

[Kazuki] I have several favorite media - in music, in visual art, and now in
fashion design.  And none of them makes me much money.  Although fashion
design is what I do for a living now.  And I do like it.  It brings the good balance in me, between fantastical and realistic.  Having the boundaries and playing inside them.

[J] What type of art education did you receive? Public school, 
extracurricular, college level?
[Kazuki] I grew up in Japan, so arts were integral to education.  It still
is, I think.  From 1st grade through 6th which is the elementary school, you
do visual arts, music, and calligraphy at least once a week each. Or twice??
Can't remember. 

In middle school, which is 7th through 9th grade, you have music at least once a week - or was it twice?  And then you choose between
visual arts and calligraphy.  
In high school, I think you choose between
visual arts and music. This is all public school.  I did this, then I was
drawing at home and during math classes.  In high school, I was in a garage
band and art club, so after school and on weekends, whenever I wasn't
playing tennis, I was playing music and painting. On the last year of high
school, I remember my math teacher checking to see I was around by poking
his head in the art club room, during math class, as I was painting.  It's a
wonder how I passed math in high school. 

 For college, I came to this country and went to a small community college in Maryland, thinking I was going to be a painter here.  I was majoring in fine arts, and when it came
to the time to transfer to a 4 year college, I realized I really didn't
fancy being a starving artist.  So I decided to do fashion. just decided
pretty randomly.  It was the only applied-arts field I could think of.  I
was going to a small university in Georgia, because it was less expensive
than others.  I was accepted with just a portfolio review.  

I had also applied to Otis, RISD, and Parsons, and I was about to stop the whole
process when I got an acceptance letter from Parsons.  The counselor lady
from the school in Georgia was calling me almost every week to check in, to
chat, to I guess make sure I was getting ready to go to her school when I
got the letter from Parsons, so I mentioned it to her, like "I just got
accepted into Parsons.  Oh well. I'm not going there anyway." To which she
said, "I'm not supposed to tell you this, but if you got accepted to
Parsons, that's the school you should go. Don't come to Georgia."  I wish I
remembered the lady's name.  That was a big turn she initiated in my life.
Now that I have worked as a fashion designer for about 20 years, and have
hired assistants on several occasions, I know of course I should have gone
to Parsons.  The lady saved me. Really.  

[J] Do you do art full time or do you have a day job?
[Kazuki] If you call fashion design art, then that's what I do full time.
music, though, is a fun thing on the side.  I do get paid, but not enough,
and not often enough.  And no one pays me to paint or draw.  Although now
that I own a store, I do all the fliers and photoshoot and web design, so
that's art, I guess.  I guess everything I do uses art somehow.

[J] Artists that go professional frequently turn to a new hobby or 
interest as a form of expression or stress relief. Has work taken the 
fun out of art for you? How have you coped?
[Kazuki] I think I turned to music because fashion design got a bit one-dimensional for me.  I love it as a means of making a living, but it is good to have something that isn't really linked to making money.  I play music for the sake of music, not really for money.

[J]What do you like to do when you need inspiration? How would you cope 
with artists block?

[Kazuki] I heard a great quote on NPR by Stephen King. "Amateurs sit and
wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work."
— Stephen King (On Writing)  
This is exactly how I deal with all my creative
outlets. For money or not. In fashion, there is definitely no room for
waiting for anything. There are market weeks and samples have to be in the
showrooms by that date and everything needs to be done yesterday.  In music,
when I decided to record an album, I just sat down and kept on drumming til
songs came.  There were some songs I recorded which inspiration or ideas
came to me, and others were just banged out.  Drawing, too - there are days
when I feel off, and everything I draw looks awful.  But then I just keep
drawing til I can say, "not great, but acceptable."  I think going to
fashion school trained me to work within imperfection.  Taught me that if
you strive only for the greatest idea and execution, you will never meet the
deadline.  So, forget the whole being inspired thing.  Creative process is
not romantic. 

[J] Do you find that your favorite piece and the viewers’ most beloved 
image are two different things? I’ve frequently run into this problem 
and I’d love to hear your response. How do you handle compliments or 
special recognition for an image that you feel isn’t your best?
[Kazuki] Oh yeah.  In fashion, what I love usually doesn't sell. Ahahaha.
This is common.  My designer friends all say the same thing.  The ones I
think are too obvious or passé sell. Which is painful, but unless you are
the European high-end designer, that's just how it is.
In music, though, my most favorite song in my little album got picked up by
several dance troops for their choreography.  That was nice. Maybe other
songs just sucked... who knows? I can't listen to that album without feeling
a bit nauseous so I haven't listened to it since I made it. (I was pregnant
and was in the first trimester while recording and mixing, so I was a bit
queasy at the time. so whenever I listen to any of the songs from that
album, queasiness comes back, along with the shame on hearing every mistake
I made on every song.)

[J] What do you get out of your work, from a personal standpoint?
[Kazuki] From fashion, and now owning a store, I am trying to make a living.
But at the same time, I am making this world a prettier place one piece of
garment at a time.  Because it is my own line, I am creating more of what I
like, rather than what I think would sell. and spreading the appreciation of
creation process by owning the store that I do. Did I tell you about my
store?  check out www.creators-coop.com
From music, I get a different focal point in my soul.

[J] What advice would you give to aspiring artists, especially those with 
an interest in your particular media?
[Kazuki] Do what you love, and do it really, really hard. After focusing on doing it really, really hard for a long time, if you are hungry, you can go and get a day job. And do what you love really, really hard at night.


Thank you so much Kazuki, for allowing us to peer into your amazing, creative life! I hope that others will take something from what you have learned and your great advice. 

If you have not already, I urge you to stop by Kazuki's shop and her blog!  She's on Facebook too!


  1. JZino I loved it! I had to break it up from this morning (I would of been late for work!)till this afternoon to finish it. It was well worth it!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts