Art Director Uehara Ryosuke × Oghee — 'I want to live the rest of my life with cats'

Mar 7, 2013 / Interviews

Photo:Shin Suzuki Edit&Text:Madoka Hattori Translation: Seth High

Uehara Ryosuke is an art director at the active studio called KIGI. In addition to having a male Scottish Fold named Oghee, he currently lives alongside a female Brussels Griffon dog named 66green (pronounced ‘Roro Green’). Though it’s become his reality, Uehara never expected to live with both a cat and a dog. At the same time he accuses Oghee of having the ‘face of an old villain’, Uehara can’t help but smother his feline with loving affection.

– Where did you first encounter Oghee?

“Oghee belonged to (pop musician and director) Noda Nagi. Sometime around 2005, she took him in from an Osaka-based breeder that she found on the Internet. Though I had looked after him on numerous occasions, I finally came to live with Oghee following Noda’s untimely passing in 2008.”

– Before taking in Oghee, had you ever had a cat?

“My grandmother kept about five cats. I think about half of them were strays. For me, personally, this is my first experience to live with a cat. They’re so wonderful. Dogs are difficult because they gradually want more and more attention. If you give them a little love, their desire for attention escalates. Cats are great because they aren’t like this at all. Before I came to have two pets, I actually had a different dog. A while after I took it in, I was forced to take a long trip for work. While my parents were taking care of the dog for me, they came to be quite affectionate for it. In fact, because they said that the dog’s arrival corresponded with an end to their marital squabbling, I had no real choice but to give it to them. After a strange turn of events, it was one year later that ‘Roro’ came to live with me.”

– Can you tell me about Oghee’s character?

“With his rounded ears, I’ve always thought of him as a rather peculiar cat. Seemingly averse to guys, he at first wouldn’t let me touch him at all. However, after I had taken care of him several times, he suddenly became attached to me. This happened when he realized that I was the one who was feeding him. Whenever I go to sleep, he’ll hop up on me and bat his paws on my chest. Roro tries to copy him by jumping up on me. However, I much prefer Oghee’s grown-up manner of doing this. Scottish Folds are such low-key characters. They’re so adorable.”

Clever Oghee and Natural Roro

– Do Oghee and Roro get along well?

“Every so often I’ll catch them fighting. Oghee will do things such as get up on top of Roro and give her some cat-punches. They each have their own place to eat. The living room belongs to Oghee while Roro gets the bedroom. Actually, the two of them probably get along quite well. I wouldn’t really know because I can’t talk with them (laughs). As for food, I give Oghee a mix of dry and canned cat chow. For a litter box, I use a two-tiered system and large-size litter. My cat-carrier consists of a BOSE bag that used to hold audio speakers. It turns out that both the mesh and size are just right for Oghee.”

– When you first began living with Oghee, did you make any new discoveries?

“Oghee is extremely smart. One day, I noticed that there was some blood on the sink. I thought that Oghee might have cut himself on a razor that I had left out. However, I couldn’t find a scratch on him. After this continued for two or three days, I thought something strange must be going on. Becasue Oghee wouldn’t leave the sink, I eventually realized that he was was trying to tell me that something was wrong with his body. When I finally took him to the vet, we learned that he had a bladder infection. If Oghee had peed in his litter, I never would have known there was a problem. So he climbed up onto the white sink in order to appeal to me for help. I thought this was just amazing. Oghee even understands when Roro wants more of my attention. After I’ve petted him for a while, he’ll voluntarily move away when he senses that Roro wants some time as well. With his great sense of understanding, Oghee’s kind of like a grown-up.”

– Are you more of a ‘dog person’?

“I’m not really a ‘dog person’ or a ‘cat person.’ Originally, I never truly felt that I wanted to keep a pet. If you think about, don’t you feel that it’s a real challenge to have a pet? This has come about unexpectedly for me. There are even times when I think to myself, ‘Why do you live with a dog and cat?’… I guess it’s because I’m a single guy.” (laughs)

– What do you imagine Oghee is thinking?

“I think he wants to go outside. Because of the way he’s always looking outside, I kind of feel bad for him. Though nothing much can be done about it, Oghee pretty much has to arrange his life around my own. When I come home from work, he meows at me as if to ask, ‘What did you do today?’ Don’t you think that’s cute? Of course, it’s probably only me who thinks so. Like a child, like an old man. Maybe like a roommate. Roro, on the other hand, it would be dangerous if I treated her like a daughter. So instead I keep a cousin-like distance. It’s bad to love dogs too much.”

– “Bad” for you?

“It would be bad for me as well as for her!”

– To me, this altogether sounds like love (laughs). Is it okay to love Oghee too much?

“Yeah. No matter how much love I give to Oghee, he’ll still go off and do his own thing. Therefore, it’s okay. I used to always think that cats were much like women. However, I have recently come to believe that dogs are more feminine. Like how when you give them attention they just want more. Don’t you think dogs are like that? Maybe this is just based on my personal experiences.” (laughs)

The round designs of cat-related goods

– When it comes to your work, I think about the iron-on cat patches you designed for une nana cool. They’re really popular.

“Though I came up with the idea of making the iron-on cat patches, it was actually (Watanabe) Yoshie who drew the illustrations. First, we made dog patches. Because there are so many different kinds of dogs, we were able to make many different variations. It’s the same with cats. We were able to try different breeds and poses. When designing cat-related items, it’s easy for the illustration to become a mere caricature of a cat. However, in order to get cat owners to feel more emotionally connected to the products, we decided to go with cats that were drawn using a touch of realism.”

– From a design perspective, are there any cat-related items that have attracted your attention?

“Though I don’t know if it’s right to say they ‘attracted my attention,’ I really hate the forms of litter boxes. Why are the edges always rounded? It would be great to have a squared-off litter box. And Japanese cars as well. The way their designs keep getting more and more round disgusts me. One unique design that I do like is the Kessi brush that I found online. Another thing I can’t stand are the cat-teaser toys that are designed with a cat’s paw illustration on the end. Why are they like that? I wish there were more cat-related goods that used simple designs.”

Dog-like people, cat-like people

“I like taking pictures of Oghee. It’s fun to upload them through Instagram. Some images make him look like an evil old politician. Other pictures capture his cute sparkling eyes. As for Roro, she looks best when I photograph her in black & white. I’ve also made a special Oghee wake-up song for the alarm app on my iPhone. One of my dreams is to get (pop star) Matsuzaki Shigeru to sing it. Maybe I have too much free time on my hands…” (laughs)

– Besides dogs and cats, what are you into?

“DVDs featuring the bands ‘Mr. Children’ and the ‘Southern All-Stars’. Recently, somebody told me that it isn’t good to like ‘major’ stars like these groups. However, I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. There’s a big reason why major stars have become ‘major’. Even the mechanism of popularity in itself interests me. Therefore, I can say that I watch this kind of entertainment as a sort of ‘research’. A long time ago, I got all caught up into cool foreign music and film. I would watch things like the movies of Jean Luc Godard. When viewing them, for some reason I always became quite sleepy (laughs). But this is a little different. Lately, I have really felt that it is the ‘shear force’ of big-time entertainment that is interesting. The focus on service-mindedness is different. As a producer of objects, I don’t really know what and how much I convey to people. However, I do think that it is important for me to understand the mechanics of ‘service’. Some people think, ‘It’s good as long as I like it in my own little world.’ I hate this perspective.”

– Unlike your first ‘KIGI-Ten’ exhibition at ggg, I felt the ‘KIGI-Ten’ exhibition in Daikanyama really went beyond the work of an ‘art director’. It expressed a whole new world. In that sense, I think the show had a tremendous amount of ‘service mindedness’.

“Work for clients always comes with many creative limitations. Of course, the process of doing good work within those limitations is very interesting in itself. However, designers always have many ideas before a product becomes an actual object. These ideals and ideas are really interesting. I wanted to show the imaginary world that pre-dates an actual ‘design’ – the pure ideas that we’re coming up with. I don’t know if you can call it ‘art’, but we did want people to take a look inside our heads.”

– Within the interview that was published in your book of projects, ‘KIGI キギ‘, Watanabe-san stated that she is the introverted member of your team while you are the extrovert. I think that this fine balance between the two of you leads to the breadth that is so evident in your body of expressive work.

“Because Yoshie-san wears the skin of an artist, she’s the type of person that is satisfied by simply creating the things she wants to make. I, on the other hand, need to look into a mirror to proverbially see myself. This means that I look into other people’s mirrors to gauge my own condition. Because I want to talk with a lot of different people, I find myself wanting to do a lot of different types of work. Right now, I think that Yoshie-san and I might have the perfect balance.”

– Your extroverted nature reminds me of a dog. Perhaps Watanabe-san is more like a cat.

“I think that’s true. Fundamentally, I’m a coward. However, Yoshie-san is strong. She doesn’t worry about other people. This is a great thing. I’m always looking around and asking, ‘How am I doing?’ If you think about, this is the characteristic of a dog. It’s possibly an effeminate trait. It’s just like Roro (laughs). Because I understand the feelings of a dog, I probably enjoy the company of cats. This is why I want to live the rest of my life in close proximity to cats.”

  • name: Oghee
  • age: 8
  • sex: Male
  • lind: Scottish Fold
  • Uehara Ryosuke

    Art Director. Born in 1972. In 1997, Uehara graduated from the (Textile) Design Department at Tama Art University. In addition to working for the DRAFT design agency, Uehara teamed with Watanabe Yoshi in January of 2012 to establish KIGI. He has been involved in a wide range of work, including advertising, graphic design, product design (D-BROS) and brand design (THEATRE PRODUCTS, PASS THE BATON, une nana cool, Panasonic i-X, etc.). www.ki-gi.com