In Japan, it’s not customary to leave a tip. However, many customers leave behind tiny sculptures made from chopstick sleeves. Yuki Tatsumi, a waiter-turned-artist, has collected more than 13,000 of these ‘tips’.
A few years ago, Tatsumi was working as a waiter when the idea for his series Japanese Tip hit him. He was cleaning a table and he noticed a paper sculpture. He imagined this is how customers show their appreciation. Instead of leaving behind cash, they leave behind art.
Since then, he’s been working with different restaurants and their respective staff in collecting these works of art. In an exhibit Tatsumi held last year in Tokyo, he displayed 8,000 works from his collection of 13,000.
“Japanese Tip is a project between restaurants and customers,” he said, “to communicate the ‘appreciation for food’ and ‘appreciation of the service’ by using the most common material used at any Japanese restaurant.”
In this quick interview with Tatsumi, he talks a little bit about himself and his work.
What was the first chopstick sleeve sculpture you found?
“The tied shape.”
How did you manage to collect more than 8,000 of these ‘tips’?
“I asked clerks of various restaurants across Japan to collect.”
Out of the entire collection, which one is your favourite, and why?
“The shrimp. It’s familiar in shape because it’s what we Japanese eat well, and at the same time, it looks complex yet can be made in an instant.”
Have you yourself tried making a chopstick sleeve sculpture? What was the result like?
“I make simple shapes. However, trying to imitate the shapes I’ve collected is challenging because they are the original.”
Now that you’ve successfully exhibited your collection, what’s next for you? Do you have further plans on collecting more ‘tips’?
“I would like to have an exhibition abroad. I want to share the fun with people all over the world. I continue to collect every chance I get (there are collections other than chopstick sleeve sculptures.)
You can see more from Tatsumi’s series here.