My Way Your Way

Expression through Decoration


Making Connections with People through Fake Food "Deko"

Myaako, Third-year junior high school student, 15 years old, Saitama Prefecture


Font size+Large ±Reset
  • print

myw_gakusei_label.pngWe at TJF have collaborated with a seminar class at Meiji University's School of Global Studies that aims to rediscover and share captivating aspects of Japan with the world.

Students taking the seminar split up into two groups, with one looking into the question, "Do you like idols?" and the other on "Expression through decoration."

A comment from the students: 

"What is deko? We thought we knew what it meant, but when we started discussing our definitions, we realized we weren't really sure! That really threw us. In this feature we introduce some of the sentiments that are expressed in different kinds of deko

Related link:

Expression through Decoration

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (20).jpg

Myaako is a junior high school student who uses daily sundries and craft supplies to create and sell fake food "deko" that look so real, you have to keep reminding yourself not to eat them. What is it that attracts Myaako to deko?

Food that Can Be Permanently Displayed

I began doing fake food deko toward the end of 2010, after learning about it on a news program. The program featured a workshop where people were making yellow-green macaroons, I think. I was surprised that such a thing existed, and it instantly caught my interest. I'd always liked food samples displayed in front of restaurants, and had wanted to make them myself.

An Internet search led me to sites showing how to make them and the necessary materials. I found out that you could make them with supplies that are widely available. I tried it out with paper clay that I bought at a 100-yen store, and it was so much fun, I was immediately hooked (laughs). I started deko in junior high. I'd always had digestive issues that got worse when I started junior high, and started to miss a lot of school. I couldn't leave the house much, and deko became my emotional sustenance.

I love eating real desserts, but if you try to keep them, they rot. I just think cakes or magnets in the shape of cookies that you can keep forever are such a great idea (laughs). They say you eat with your eyes, and even if you can't eat the deko food, you can still enjoy them by imagining what they might taste like. That's why I like deko.

The first thing I made was supposed to be a cookie, but it turned out to be a mysterious-looking object (laughs).

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (19).jpg

Learning Everything from the Web

A lot of people who do fake food deko apparently take workshops, but whenever I have any problems, I can usually find the solution on the Internet. In the beginning I was at a complete loss, so I typed in keywords like "fake food deko pancakes how-to," and learned the basics of making them and the supplies I needed. In addition, I looked at images of real pancakes to see things like how deep the colors were when the pancakes were cooked. I apply that information to the things I want to make.

I figured experience was the most important thing, so I made a lot of samples. That way, you start to figure out how to make what you want. Now, I use certain equipment for certain types of food. For example, I tap the clay with a toothbrush and a scouring brush to create the texture of baked goods. I pick at the material with toothpicks for the frilly parts of ice cream and macaroons. The work itself is simple, so as long as you switch around the combination of tools you use, you can make a wide variety of things.

Each piece takes about an hour to two hours of actual work. Because I need to let the clay and varnish dry, it takes about a week to two weeks for a piece to be completed.

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (15).jpgのサムネイル画像

When I'm really focused, I'll coop myself up in my workspace for about six hours. There are times when I'm in the zone, and I forget to go to the bathroom or eat...I have great concentration, and I easily get sucked into my own world (laughs).

As for design, sometimes I first come up with a vision in my head, and other times I make it up as I'm working with the material. Recently, I've always been thinking about fake food deko, so when I'm out shopping, I'm constantly thinking, "This might come in useful!" or "If only this were a little bit smaller." Seeing a Chinese soup spoon makes me think, "Maybe I'll put deko ramen in it," and a small cocotte dish gives me the idea that tiramisu or crème brulee might be cute.

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (10).jpg hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (13).jpg

How to Make Deko Ice Cream

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (16).jpg

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (17).jpg

↓Creating texture with a scouring brush.

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (18).jpg

↓Using a toothpick for details.

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (5).jpg

Ice cream and pancake pins.

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (2).jpg

First Sale

I saw on a blog written by someone who makes deko stuff that there were openings for deko artists to sell their work at an event at a department store in Ikebukuro. I figured it was a long shot but I applied anyway, and was accepted! This was in August 2011, and was my first time participating in such an event. All of the 20 items I put up for sale were sold in three days. I never imagined my stuff would sell out, so I was really happy!

In November of the same year, I took part in Design Festa, a biannual international art event held in Tokyo. The cost of putting out a booth depends on the size and the type of booth, but the least expensive one costs over 20,000 yen -- which is not cheap -- so a group of about 20 of us got one together. It was a dream of mine to participate in the Design Festa, so I was ecstatic!

Because I'm in junior high, I sometimes get turned down from participating in events. Even people who read my blog are surprised when they meet me, saying, "You're really a junior high student!" (laughs). People who sell their stuff at events are mostly grown ups, and there aren't many other people my age.

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (8).jpg hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (9).jpg hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (11).jpg

Friendships Forged through the Internet and Deko

A lot of people I know had never even heard of fake food deko, so I became friends with elementary school, junior high school and high school kids who do fake food deko through the Internet. We exchange information about good materials and methods, and show each other how we do things via video chat. I've gone shopping and to events with kids living in the Tokyo area, and we've also made stuff together at home. When I went to Hyogo Prefecture, I met up with kids from Osaka and Hiroshima and went shopping and to events together. It's been a lot of fun getting to know people through blogging and events.

Someone suggested that my work might draw the interest of people abroad, so I set up an English blog. But English is hard, and I've only updated the blog three times (laughs). I'm now working on an English-language website. Hopefully, I'll be able to complete it!

Distance from Deko, then Recovery

I had trouble with interpersonal relationships at school, and my physical condition got worse. At home, I'd get into fistfights with my brother everyday (laughs). Naturally, I fell into a funk and was unable to do deko work for several months. I panicked that if things stayed that way, my situation would just continue to get worse.

At the time, I was always saying things like, "There's no more hope," "I'm exhausted," and "I want to die." But I decided to force myself to think positively instead, like, "Because things have been so hard up until now, they're bound to get better," "I'm exhausted because I've been trying so hard," and "I want to die after having lived a happy, full life." And if I started feeling negative, I'd repeat to myself the words "excitement, fun, happiness," like I were casting a spell myself. It was self brain washing, basically (laughs). But then it really started to feel that way, and things got fun.

Once I got over my emotional issues, my motivation -- "I want to make ramen!" -- returned. I'd wanted to make ramen before, but had never tried it because it seemed too hard. But then I thought, "Maybe with the skills I have now, I can," and put myself to the challenge. The result was the most satisfying to date! It makes me so happy when I'm able to create something exactly the way I'd envisioned it.

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (4).jpg

Difficulties of Deko

The biggest problem in the process of doing deko is dust. It shows especially when I'm using white or clear clay. I was told that using moist towelettes was a good way to deal with dust, and it's helped reduce a lot of the problem. Also, when applying varnish, dust in the air can get into it. There's not much you can do about it, so I meticulously pick the dust out with a toothpick when that happens. If I get dust in a part where it stands out and I can't remove it, I rebuild that part over again.

My recent concern has been that of my designs turning out to be similar to other people's. It's kind of a shock when I discover someone else's work that looks a lot like something I'd been meaning to make or that I'm in the process of making, because that means that anybody could've come up with the idea. Since I'm easily influenced, and because I want to create unique work, I try not to look at other people's blogs too much.

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (21).jpg

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (3).jpg

Pouring My Heart to Express Myself

It's when I'm making something that I'm going to give someone, or that someone's asked me to make for them that I really pour my heart into it. Because deko is what I'm best at, I sometimes give my work as a gift, along with a message, to people as a sign of gratitude. If they don't have any specific motifs in mind, I'll ask them what colors, or what kind of finish they like. Aside from that, I take into consideration that person's vibe, clothes, and personal belongings to figure out their taste. I've given my mother a macaroon with her name in it, and an éclair keychain. My mother also likes Mont Blanc desserts, so I think that's what I'll make her next. I like making things, but even more, I like it when people enjoy my work and show an interest in it.

Continuing to Make What I Want

I buy the things I need to make deko work with New Year's money that I've saved up and my allowance. Materials cost money, so I'd like to get a part-time job once I'm in high school. I think that working in the service industry will help me down the line. Who knows what I'll do in the future, but I want to continue creating and selling.

Ever since I started selling my work, though, I've been troubled by the gap between things that sell and things that I want to make. I want my work to be a combination of the "realness of food samples" and "cool and cute," but it's hard to sell things that aren't practical. Also, a lot of my stuff is plain-looking, while pink, cute, showy deko is what sells. Realistic items require detailed work, but raising the price for that makes them hard to sell, and if I make the items cheaper, I lose money. Making things with the mind of selling them turns them into products, more so than artwork, and I worry that the my unique flavor is lost that way. From now on I want to be able to separate my "products" from my "work." Making things that I don't want to make will only lead to unsatisfactory results, so I want to keep making things that make me think, "This is it!" For me, creation is self-expression.

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (12).jpg hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (14).jpg

hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (6).jpgのサムネイル画像 hiyashihiyoko_sweetsdeco (7).jpg

Font size+Large ±Reset
  • print

Page Top