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April 24, 2017

The Art of the Peel

Prawn

From Atlas Obscura:

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Wooly sheep emerges

Yoshihiro Okada saw the design of a prawn [top] in a vision. He saw it clearly: Out of a tangerine peel, the crustacean emerged, unfurling its many thin legs, the articulated length of its body, the fan of its tail. Near the eye — the stubby end of the tangerine stem — the prawn waved long antennae that reached out to sense the world around.

After the vision, Okada picked up a tangerine and tried to execute what he had seen. He can peel freehand, but for a design like this, with such delicate features, it helped to use a knife. It came out the way he'd envisioned it on the first try. He was amazed. "The shrimp design is one of the most sophisticated designs among all of my works," he says.

Okada is an unusual artist. His medium is the thin peel of a citrus fruit, which he unwinds into a variety of elegant shapes, most depicting animals from land, sky, and sea. He operates according to a principle of conservation. Each shape must use the entire peel; no part can be removed and nothing can be added. Within this limitation, he has created more than 170 designs. "I am sure that I will be able to make almost any kind of animal or bird if I am asked to," he says. Now he is working on series of symbols — the Juni-shi zodiac, popular in Japan; the Western zodiac; the symbols of the twelve tribes of Israel.

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