We had the good fortune of connecting with Minako “tomi” Tomigahara and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tomi, the decisions we make often shape our story in profound ways. What was one of the most difficult decisions you’ve had to make?
The most difficult decision I ever faced was to stay true to myself and my honest desires. When I was younger, I was not able to live truthfully with myself. But I learned that I needed to take risks to make my wishes come true. This experience has grown me and led me to the happiness I have today. I made a big decision to change my career in my early twenties. At the time, I was working as a fashion designer in Tokyo, and life was comfortable and stable. However, I realized that there was a gap between what I really wanted to do and what I am doing. And something was missing in my life. I had always loved drawing and was interested in a career as an artist, but I was too busy with my daily job, so I ignored my inner voice for a while. When I had a chance to collaborate with a French illustrator for a project, that moment I found out there are other ways to make a living as an artist besides a fashion designer. it opened up my mind to something I had been keeping under wraps and I found my missing piece. I think it was a great fortune to meet someone who embodied what I wanted to be. Soon after that, I quit my job and flew to New York to find a job that I can be passionate about. To explore my possible option as an artist, I started practicing painting little by little while working in the fashion industry there. Compared to when I was working as a designer in Tokyo, everything was more difficult, and I was under a lot of pressure with the financial situation and language barrier. I was on the verge of making a living, but strangely enough, my fears and anxieties disappeared from my mind and I was able to see clearly what I was looking for. It was a feeling of happiness that I had never experienced before. As I left the burden off my shoulder and started running, and became one with myself, my heart became lighter and I regained the courage to try new things. Forcing to fit yourself into the box that society made is the same as losing yourself. By finding what I truly love, staying honest with myself, and keeping myself on track, I have gained strength and perseverance to not give up despite the difficult reality. Moreover, in the process of this challenge, I was able to meet inspiring creators who know their enthusiasm and who can grow together. Now, It’s my turn to inspire and encourage other people who want to do the same as I did. I hope that our society will become a place where all people can be honest with their hearts and true desires.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As an artist, I would like to be involved in a variety of genres. My day job is to design sets and backgrounds for animated television series. In the evenings I work on my own animated film projects while taking college online classes. In the last few years, I have been working as an illustrator and designer, collaborating with international fashion brands and producing short films, and even collaborated with a fashion designer in New York and did some live painting performances at his exhibition. I love the infinite possibilities of being an artist, and I am willing to take on any challenge that interests me. At first, the design skills I developed as a fashion designer and the power of storytelling I learned in the entertainment industry seemed completely different, but recently, I have finally connected the dots and am able to express my own voice. It has not been easy to come this far. In fact, I felt like I was stuck in a slump for quite a long time until recently. I will probably continue to struggle to grow as an artist. But I love to learn, so I decided to balance work and study, and I hope to continue learning and adapting even after I graduate. The fact that I was able to maintain a stance of continuing to learn has given me strength and is helping me today. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am very grateful to my mother and siblings for believing in me and supporting me at all these times. I can’t thank my friends and my partner enough for their continuous support and encouragement. Including my father, Minoru Tomigahara, who passed away last year. I started making a short film based on my memories of him, and it has become everything to me. I would like to continue to express myself for the people I love.
Photographer: Taka Mark Kasuya