Michiko Matsuda - 2021 Al Stohlman Award Winner

Michiko Matsuda - 2021 Al Stohlman Award Winner


Michiko Matsuda says she has loved drawing since she was a child and wanted to be a designer of some kind. So, she studied at Musashino Art college to be an interior designer. While attending a Scandinavian furniture exhibition, she noticed leather inlays on a crafted chest. "I don't know why I couldn't take my eyes off it, and it seemed very attractive to me." After that, she started studying leather work. 

After she graduated from college, she continued learning about leather craft at a private community cultural center. She wanted more, so she independently became a leather worker, taking orders from friends and acquaintances. Interest grew and customers wanted to learn, so she rented a space near a public transportation station to start her school. 

Michiko has always loved traditional Japanese culture, learning Japanese dance and the koto, a traditional stringed instrument like a zither. "I like Japanese natural pigment (Iwaenogu) painting more than oil painting, and while learning leather craft, I wondered if it could be fused with traditional Japanese painting. The colors and soft atmosphere that I wanted to express were difficult to express with carving, and as I researched various techniques, I found the leather batik technique. Leather batik has been practiced in Japan for over thousands of years. The batik items collected in the Shosoin Treasure House in Nara City near Kyoto and Osaka contains some 3000 historic articles and fine art objects from the 8th century, including Imperial treasures. This technique was exactly what I was looking for and from then on, I started batik seriously. After studying leather batik and fabric batik, I have found my own technique." Michiko's batik technique is published in many books.

She then wanted to make three-dimensional objects using leather thermoplastics fused with her own techniques. Under the influence of art nouveau, she experimented and devised her own new processes that she uses today to create her projects. 

Michiko has exhibited her work since 1984. The Japan Leather Crafts Exhibition (Kawa Kogeikai) was the first to participate in a public exhibition in Japan. She received the Leather Material Association Chairman's Award and then became a director of Nippon Kawa

Koegikai and a judge. “Unfortunately, the exhibition was ended in 2017, so the public leather-only exhibitions disappeared from Japan. I heard many disappointed voices, so I established a new association, the Japan Leather Craft Association, with my friends in 2018 and we held our first exhibition in early March 2020." Michiko currently serves as chairperson of the association. "One of our purposes is to exchange skills and friendship with foreign leather crafters.”

Michiko has won many awards and has been teaching leather craft classes for 30 years. Her students also exhibit in contests and have received awards. She says: "I want to create new items with new techniques and be useful for the leather craft world."

I'm Michiko Matsuda from Tokyo, Japan. I received happy news in an email from Tony Laier, Vice President of the Al & Ann Stohlman Award Foundation on May 19th. I genuinely appreciate it!

I learned [leather craft] at a community cultural center (a private school where you can easily

learn various things) for about two years. However, I couldn't really learn so much there because it was just a hobby class. I wanted to study in earnest, so I quit my job and I started working on leather independently. It was difficult at first, but with the help of many friends and relatives, my work became more successful. I have been creating and teaching only with leather craft until now.

My dream is to be a bridge between the Japanese leather crafter and you. This award will help my dream. I want to continue creating new items with new techniques and share information. -Michiko