I first met Yuki Kakuno on a trip to Kagawa Prefecture with his partner Eleanor Ford, one of Tokyo’s buzziest art curators. Kakuno, a natural conversationalist, and I first spoke properly about his work at the airport in Takamatsu after spending three days together at the beautiful Urashima Village complex. A humble man, quiet and profound, but absolutely dedicated to his craft, he is a joy to be with and watching him work is a real pleasure. Soft, gentle but also accurate and precise.

I was lucky to observe Kakuno, who is also a well-known DJ in Tokyo, up close framing a beautiful piece of art by brilliant Tokyo-based artist Jes Kalled. With a pair of white gloves and an accompaniment of tools, he proceeded to tackle the framing of this work with the utmost care and precision. The room was hushed as we watched a real artisan at work.

Yuki Kakuno Framer

A Master of the Picture Framing Craft

I watched Kakuno closely and found myself thinking of all the other artisans I’ve met over the years, from designers and kokeshi doll makers in Tohoku to fine artists and carpenters. Kakuno has all the qualities that these people have. He’s dedicated and has a brilliant eye for detail.

I tell Kakuno that he’s the first framer I’ve ever met in person. I’ve been to thousands of galleries, museums and interviewed a ton of artists, but he’s the first framer. It seems apt that I sit with him in the lounge of an airport, as we await for ourselves to be transported somewhere else. His work, when you witness it, also transports, complements and transfixes the viewer.

The History of Juka Framing

I ask him how he became involved in framing and his answer surprises me: “I worked for an internet company and I used to go back to Tsushima Island where I was born. Sometimes I’d take photos of ojisan and obasan and would tell them I’d send them the photos. At that time, however, they only had flip phones and not smartphones, so they couldn’t see the photographs. So, I thought I would frame the photos. In Tokyo, where I live, I tried to find a framing store, but they were difficult to find. I eventually found one and asked them if they could frame these photos. However, they gave me thousands of options and I couldn’t really choose. After a lot of thought, I chose one of the options, and they framed it for me, but it was really expensive.

Yuki Kakuno Framer

“I realized, then, I could probably do it myself. I used to live in New York, years ago, and I used to see framing stores near each station, so I thought perhaps I could do something similar in Tokyo. So, I quit my IT job and started working for a framing company on a part-time basis for about two years. And then I set up my own company.”

Kakuno’s story intrigues me as I realize that many people, metaphorically, fall into jobs. When I spoke with Lad Musician designer Yuichi Kuroda, he told me that he was escaping a TV crew and ended up in the backstreets of Harajuku where he found himself outside the fashion school Esmod. He then decided to enroll. Kakuno reminds me of this and of countless other stories.

In Kagawa, we are in the temporary studio space of Tokyo-based artist Jesse Freeman, who is in town for an art residency program. Kakuno tells me that he’s now based in Nerima in a shared working studio.

“I love art and photography and actually most of my customers are gallery artists,” he says. “But, I also like to frame people’s memories too. Even tiles. One of my customers asked me to frame some beautiful tiles for them. I even framed a pair of panties once. But these panties were Marilyn Monroe’s — for a collector. And at the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also framed things like babies’ feet stamps which were so cute.”

Yuki Kakuno Framer

Kakuno’s company is now named Juka Framing, which he describes as a “custom art framing service.” He adds that the name Juka comes from his family’s kamon (family crest or symbol), which looks like a cross or ju (ten) in Japanese. And ka comes from the first part of his surname. So, Juka Framing was born and continues to supply the capital with some of the most beautiful and ornate frames. The craftsman’s aim for the future is to eventually own his own store and studio space and serve the country’s best-up-and-coming artists as well as people who simply want to preserve their own precious memories.

For more about Yuki Kakuno and Juka Framing check here.

And follow on Instagram at: @jukaframing 

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