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Yujia is what you could call the right man in the right place at the right time. In theonigiriart, the sushi chef/artist has got streetwear lovers excited with his brilliant creations of shoe-shaped sushi (shoeshi) and more.
From sneakers to the faces of rappers and sports champions, Yujia broke the Internet, turning millennial art into contemporary key and street.
FineDiningLovers went to meet him to find out more.
Sushi Sneakers, The Story
Your personal details ...
My name is Yujia, I'm 28 and I've lived in Milan, Italy since I was 8 years old. I attended high school, but had to stop studying to take care of the family business - Sakana restaurant. I learned the art of sushi making from a master.
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How was your project born?
I've always had a great passion for NBA. I played basketball at an amateur level, and after a while of running the family restaurant, I decided to invest some of my art and my passions into it. From there arose the NBA players made out of onigiri. My creations went viral immediately, thanks in part also to Instagram where the images circulate so quickly. My sushi sneakers were born out of the desire to make my place different to others and, after seeing the positive feedback, I decided to push myself further. One of my first creations was the sushi inspired by Michael Jordan, followed by the mythical Air Jordan 1.
Do you think you were in the right place at the right time?
Well ... yes. When my shoeshi began I had two months of 2000 to 3000 mails per day. The news had bounced everywhere. That was the springboard into the world of rap. Action Bronson was the first rapper whose portrait I made out of sushi. Later I was contacted by a member of staff at Lil Uzi Vert and I also realized her portrait.
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Where do you get your inspiration from?
I've always listened to a lot of rap music. I knew less about sneakers and street wear, but I have a friend who collects sneakers and that inspired me. I began to detect a certain appetite linked to the craze, for example around the Yeezy, and from there my dedicated series began with the most famous being the sneakers.
Your public seems to be more American than Italian. How do you see it?
With Instagram it's easier to reach the American public than an Italian audience. Americans appreciate these kind of creations because they like to experiment and are more active on social media. In Italy, however, I have a fair amount of success and I think it will be one of my next series. Gue 'Pequeno for example follows me, and will come here soon to make a sushi portrait. In general, rappers have a certain amount of self-centeredness and these creations are a lot of fun.
How do you create a shoeshi and your characters?
I start with an image I like. If I can visualize it then it means I can replicate it. I use the ingredients I find in the fridge, all very simple, all edible. On average I spend 20 minutes on my creations. What I found most difficult was Jordan 4, because of the details.
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How do you define yourself?
I consider myself half-artist and half-sushi chef. I always seek to have a "wow" effect on people. That's what stimulates me and keeps me going.
In an era of social media where it's easy to get comments, particularly on the internet, have you had any?
Of course! There have been those that have accused me of ruining an ancient art. Negative comments will always be there, especially if you do something different. However, on the other hand, there are people enthusiastic about my work and this is my strength.
Any projects in the pipeline?
At the moment, a very big one with some American musicians, so we're shooting here at the venue. In September I will go to New York and everything will materialize. I would also like to collaborate with Supreme: I would like to create a T-shirt with the image of their logo in the form of sushi. As for Italy, in September I will be at Micam to prepare my sushi shoes at the fair.