Your Interview Mayumi Watanuki
Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).
My name is Mayumi Watanuki. I am a representative director of Uchihara Creative Lighting Design Inc. now, after working as a designer in the company.
When I was a student, I took a special lecture called “Lighting Planning” given by Satoshi Uchihara, who was the founder of the company, and I was utterly drawn into the “Uchihara World.” I was just a 19-year-old student vaguely hoping that I would be involved in architecture in the future and that it would be cool if I was able to make drawings. Everything in the lecture sounded exciting to me. As I was into working on my design assignment of the lecture, it became something like a grand story starting with light. I learned the charm of changes in light and the excitement of imagination from him. I think this experience brought me to the lighting design business.
Tell us about your work – is there a specific type of project you like to work on or an area you specialise in and why?
I’ve engaged in a lot of event projects and urban development projects.
I love final adjustments at the construction site in any project. I also like the process of discussing with people working there. It takes about a year to complete an event project, and mostly I can handle it until the final adjustments. On the other hand, urban development takes a long time, so there were some projects that I was unable to manage the sites while on my maternity leave.
I’m gradually shifting my job from design to business management now.
What project are you most proud of and why?
I have many memorable projects, but if I had to choose one, it would be the Christmas illumination event at Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, which our company conducts every year. I have been involved in this project as a designer and, more recently, as a support for more than ten years.
It was a lot of fun when I designed it myself, but it’s a great pleasure as well to see the creation of our designers. Each designer in charge deliberates a new concept and design through trial and error.
Also, to continue event projects like this, traditional and innovative design are required. I like the moment I can feel the importance of both through this project. At the main street of the site, every tree is carefully illuminated, which is our signature illumination for it. I’m confident that it’s the one and only light you can never find anywhere else.
The client, manufacturers and electricians, programmers, designers, and supervisor who leads the team, the entire team members share the design, and every one of them is competent as a professional from their standpoint. Thanks to them, we can maintain the quality of the illumination and give the visitors excitement. I’m proud of this team the most.
What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?
It is personal, but I found it hardest when I was unable to see anything else around me mentally in the past.
You get swamped with work, stuck with your projects all by yourself, can’t handle well, can’t talk to people, and ultimately, you can’t design anymore. The hardest part was when I fell into such a vicious circle. Once you get over it, the feeling becomes much easier, but I had no room to think about it back then.
I’m sure many of you are struggling with parenting. I consider myself quite fortunate in it. I got the support from my family, and my husband and I have been like, “We both have a job, so we do childcare equally.” However, it didn’t always work out well. When you’re raising children, your children will inevitably come first, and their circumstances can often change suddenly. I think it’s necessary to get understandings from your co-workers and talk about how to manage your ongoing sites and business trips, etc. in advance.
How does light inspire you?
Just like water and air, light is essential for life.
People can’t be energized without light.
I think it’s attractive because the importance of light is so obvious.
It gives a wide range of impressions, and that is another interesting aspect. For instance, when the power goes out during a disaster, even the light of a candle can be a relief.
What is your message for other Women In Lighting?
Let’s spread light that makes people smile all over the world!
Lighting design is an indispensable part of creating architecture and interior spaces, and it requires the designers to interact with a variety of professionals. In that respect, I think that women's attentiveness, thoughtfulness, and the ability for building community are suitable for lighting design.
As I get older, I feel like “I’m becoming original me” these days. I think that women go through a lot of events that changes their lives, such as marriage, childbirth, physical changes, and so on, more than men do. I believe that when a woman overcomes the difficulties of the changes, she becomes even stronger and more resilient, and get closer to true-herself.
I think women are really amazing.
I will continue to support Women In Lighting!
Interviewed by Lyshus; Translated by Akane H
“I think that women’s attentiveness, thoughtfulness, and the ability for building community are suitable for lighting design.”