AIKO Makes Art for Healing
AIKO has spent the last three decades traveling the globe and sharing her love and compassion for art and humanity through a distinguished style all of her own. The New York City-based artist shares her life experiences through her work that spans colorful projects across a spectrum of different mediums. As we prepare for the launch of new AIKO products in our online store next week, we caught up with the one and only Lady AIKO to talk about the inspiration behind her adored bunny and how her travels have influenced her work. Officially releasing next Thursday, February 15 will be blue and pink versions of a ceramic bunny cookie jar, as well as bunny pins, and NYC subway map original works in a selection of different variants.
AIKO teaching art on a trip to Mumbai, India. Photo Courtesy of Martha Cooper.
AIKO, it seems like you're always traveling somewhere new!
I was born in Tokyo, but after finishing basic education I've spent most of my time based in NYC and traveling overseas for the last 30 years. I’d like to think of myself as a global citizen who is using art as her first language. Art is my way to communicate with people and discover unusual places where I can make friends and learn something new and different. My next journey will be an artist residency and exhibition in Mumbai, India. I visited there with my friend Martha Cooper last year and we enjoyed meeting the gallery and local artists as well as participating in art fairs and festivals. The scene is so new and they are so fascinated to have us there, so I decided to go back again and continue introducing my art and mission.
After the pandemic I've spent lots of time at my studio in NYC and challenging myself with a series of commissions for private clients and collectors. It's been enjoyable to be able to travel more and work with new generations of people and artists while exploring different new scenes overseas, it keeps me balanced.
One of several NYC subway map original works releasing next week.
What's your relationship with the subway, why did you decide to work on the maps for this release?
Since I’m always traveling and reusing local materials, the subway maps were just a natural place for Bunny to exist. The subway is a part of my daily life in New York and it's such a big part of the city, of the culture, and especially its history with graffiti. I’ve spent many days and nights in the subway, especially when I had nowhere else to go… It's an everyday reminder of where I am and how far Bunny and I have come and gone over the last 20 years.
AIKO in her New York City studio. Photo Courtesy of Joe Woolhead.
What about Bunny? Who was that made for and what does it symbolize in your life?
I was born in the year of the rabbit, so ever since I was younger I’ve always had something rabbit related in my purse. When I started painting I knew it would be my symbol, in the same way that Banksy paints rats and Shepard paints Andre the Giant.
Bunny is a symbol of freedom. It was something I held onto during the very dark moments in my life. I made my first bunny stencil at Banksy’s studio in 2005. He liked it and let me test it on his bathroom door. Bunny has been like medicine to my soul. It really makes me happy to see Bunny being embraced by so many people in different countries. In Asia, a rabbit is a symbol that represents long life and success. The bunny is beautiful, it brings good fortune and prosperity.
Bunny has even made her way to the kitchen. How did that come about?
The cookie jar project started in 2020 during the stay-at-home orders. Roger Gastman made me a proposition to make a 3D bunny, and because all we were doing was sitting around the house I said, “why not!” So I was introduced to Ryan Whearty, who sculpted 3D Bunny, and we went back and forth for half a year, creating what eventually became the cookie jar. It was made with the home in mind, especially the kitchen, where we spend so much time and where the soul of the home is.
I love cooking. I’ll wake up early some days and bake a whole cake for the day. I’ve been making it with green tea, apple, banana, whatever feels interesting that day. Baking is an art, playing with colors, textures, and of course flavors. It's something nice to share with friends and family.
Limited edition ceramic bunny cookie jars releasing in blue and pink colorways.
New releases from AIKO arrive on Thursday, February 15 at 9AM PST through our online store. They include two colorways of the ceramic bunny cookie jar, as well as NYC subway maps original works, and bunny pins.