Hirotoshi Itoh is a Japanese stone sculptor who is known for his humorously imaginative ideas and incredible ability to make stones look soft, flexible, and light. In 1982, he graduated from the prestigious Tokyo National Fine Arts University where he experimented with turning cold hard metals into something warm and soft. Upon his graduation from the university, he returned to his family’s stone masonry business: Creating tombstones, memorials, and religious statuary. However, in his personal time, he uses his imagination to create mind-bending and unconventional works of art. He struggled a bit to begin with due to using the wrong tools but he soon was able to use his masonry background to his advantage and use a battery powered hammer drill among other tools to start bringing such soft features to simple rocks.
In his personal work, he uses various stones found at a riverbank near his home (in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan). Using traditional stone masonry equipment such as chisels and saws, he transforms rock, granite, and marble into garments, coin purses, bread, laughing faces, and other surrealistic objects.
As he carves, Itoh retains and optimizes the original shapes of the stone, yet goes further by juxtaposing the stones with unrelated objects such as dentures, fibers, shells, and various metal objects.
Twenty years ago, along with his friends, Hirotoshi Itoh initiated a grass roots project which has grown into an annual craft festival in Matsumoto City. Past President of a non-profit organization called The Secretariat of Crafts Fair Matsumoto, he is still very actively promotes the growing contemporary craft traditions in the Nagano area.
As an artist, Itoh continues to find original ways to create stone sculptures that will surprise people with their unexpected softness, playfulness, and warmth.
Even though the image of stone gives an impression of hardness, Itoh wants to express warmth and humor through his work. He says that he is honored if his sculptures bring laughs and smiles to the people who come in contact with them.