​Ebony Bizys moved to Tokyo from Sydney, Australia six years ago. Her art practice and blog, Hello Sandwich, explore the culture of cuteness or "kawaii" to an ever growing cult audience.

Ebony Bizys moved to Tokyo from Sydney, Australia six years ago. Her art practice and blog, Hello Sandwich, explore the culture of cuteness or “kawaii” to an ever growing cult audience. She completed a Masters of Fine Arts, specialising in Japanese micropop artists before becoming Deputy Art Director of Vogue Living, Australia’s leading interior design magazine. Since moving to Tokyo Ebony has published several books, including a sought-after Tokyo Guide, and conducts workshops in craft and DIY lifestyle. She is also busy styling photo shoots and is an in-demand public speaker on stage and radio. Here Ebony tells More Margie of the road to success and shares secrets of some of her favourite haunts.

You’ve lived in Tokyo for 6 years now. Does it still thrill you in the same way it did on your previous visits as a tourist? What is different about living there and visiting?

Living in Tokyo is still as fascinating as it has ever been for me. Not a day passes when I don't smile at something uniquely Japanese which makes me so utterly happy to be able to live in this incredible city. When I first moved here, I thought I might last a year. Almost six years down the track I'm not looking into logging onto Qantas to book a one way ticket back to Australia any time soon.

I started Hello Sandwich in 2009 as a place to record the things that inspired me; a little place to save everything so that I wouldn’t forget. A kind of pinterest, before pinterest.
Hello Sandwich has become a great success. How many followers/ subscribers do you have? What is the audience demographic?

I started Hello Sandwich in 2009 as a place to record the things that inspired me; a little place to save everything so that I wouldn’t forget. A kind of pinterest, before pinterest. I began by posting content about an exhibition I loved, or a profile on a fashion designer, or information about whatever it was that was inspiring me at that point in time, but every now and then I would pop in a more personal post, with original photographs and I was very surprised to see that these types of posts were the most popular in terms of engagement.

I couldn’t believe that some people were actually interested in what I was doing. When I moved to Tokyo I began recording my daily life here, in a way as a diary for myself, and also as a way to share the experience and journey with Hello Sandwich readers. I would post on Japanese packaging, daily trips to the supermarket, cute exhibitions, bike rides, Tokyo suburb reviews, and snippets about craft projects or workshops I was hosting. To this day, it is so humbling that people are interested in this.

Instagram is my favourite and most popular social media outlet with 34.8k followers at present. I adore pinterest, too. And recently snapchat is a lot of fun!

You are a publisher, a blogger, and artist amongst other things. It’s a diverse set of roles and products — are you intending to focus on particular areas in the near future?

I would love to set up a studio space with a larger team to allow myself to focus on producing more DIY and lifestyle content for my website. I'm eager to move into product design and spend more time on graphic design. I hope to collaborate with more fashion labels and homewares brands.

Can you describe what you love about your craft work and what it entails? For example do you teach classes, sell to shops, etc and how often and where do you exhibit your works?

Craft will always be something that is dear to my heart, and I adored working with certain brands to show customers how they might use the products in their own crafting, and of course I love making craft tutorials for Hello Sandwich and my books. At the moment however, and this is somewhat reflected in my latest book 'Hello Tokyo', I am moving into more of a DIY direction including home tutorials, lifestyle tips on how one might style a party table for instance, and travel writing.

What shops do you regularly visit for your craft supplies?

You will always find me at Tokyu Hands or Sekaido, and then Seria and Daiso for some cheap and cheerful essentials.

The Hello Sandwich aesthetic has strong similarities to the Japanese aesthetic of “cuteness” or “kawaii”. Would you agree? Explain the development of the Hello Sandwich look and ethos – is it something you always pursued in your art studies in Australia, for example, or something that developed from your regular travels to Japan?

My work has been strongly influenced by the creative scene here in Tokyo. Before moving to Tokyo in 2010, I came to Tokyo 9 times on holidays and my Masters of Fine Arts thesis was on Japanese micropop artists. The draw towards the Japanese kawaii aesthetic has always been dear to my heart.

What do you love about life in Shimokitazawa?

I live in Shimokitazawa, which is a buzzy little neighbourhood just a few train stops away from Shibuya. In Tokyo questionnaire surveys about where young people want to live, Shimokitazawa is always one of the top three responses. It’s packed with teeny tiny six-seater bars, adorable cafes, loads of cheap and cheerful restaurants, vintage and retro clothing stores, live music venues, secondhand record stores, homewares and vintage stores.

The local design scene in Tokyo is incredible. Before moving here, I couldn’t have imagined that, in such a mega metropolis, everyone would be so connected, and that I would easily bump into friends at openings, or be introduced to friends of friends at events and such. Although it’s a mega metropolis city, the design, and expat, and niche craft community here is tight. Here in Tokyo, there is no shortage of events / happenings / openings /exhibitions to inspire you at any given time.

What is your daily routine?

There is almost nothing routine about a day in the life of Hello Sandwich. I might have a week of being up until 4am working to finish off a deadline, but the following week might allow some long lunches with friends. There is no clear separation line between my work. The long lunch with friends, that I may have taken as a treat for finishing the 4am deadline, might appear in the next Hello Sandwich Tokyo Guide. Everything is combined, and I love it that way.

When things are not ridiculously busy, on any typical day I generally work on checking emails, updating my blog, posting on instagram, work on craft projects, photograph samples of my work and spend time retouching the shots. I might have work due for a Japanese magazine, or an interview for the promotion of my book. There might be a meeting with a client, or a shop I need to visit for my next Tokyo guide. You might find me hosting craft demonstrations at a Japanese department store, or hosting a workshop. A few times a year I travel for work, too.

When there is spare time, which there rarely is, I try to recharge and reflect and plan the year's projects and work with my assistant to put these plans into action. Some of my favourite ways to recharge and gain inspiration are to spend time on pinterest, or look through some of my favourite blogs, take a trip to one of my favourite bookstores or stationery stores in Tokyo, or travel to clear the mind.

You have produced the Tokyo guide – how much of your time does that take to do and what are your favourite things about the process?

I've produced three Hello Sandwich Tokyo Guides to date. It's so nice to discover new shops and cafes to include on my daily wanderings. I might take a photo on the spot which can later be used when putting together the guide, or some places might require revisiting.

Office or home desk? Staff or no staff?

I'm currently looking for an office space and have one assistant and a few interns on shoots and bigger projects, and when I travel.

Who are your graphic design heroes and bloggers?

Graphic Design heroes:

Jen Gotch of Ban.do http://www.bando.com/ This lady is my all time hero! You have to check out her snapchat and instagram. Go this instant!

Lotta Nieminen http://www.lottanieminen.com/ Speechless!

Kazunari Hattori https://www.google.co.jp/searc... 

I recently came across this group on a trip to Singapore: Foreign Policy Design http://www.foreignpolicydesign...

And you can see so many of my other favourite designs on my pinterest board: https://jp.pinterest.com/hello...

Favourite Bloggers:


What magazines are you reading?

Apart from Monocle, Frankie, and Kinfolk, I mostly buy Japanese magazines such as Hanako, OzMagazine, Haco and Vikka

http://magazineworld.jp/hanako... http://www.ozmall.co.jp/ozmaga... https://www.haco.jp/ http://vikka.jp/

Where to next for Hello Sandwich?

I'm looking to turn the Hello Sandwich Tokyo Guide into an app. And I have been selected to go on a month long artists' residency in San Francisco in October!

Images kindly provided by Hello Sandwich, BOCO and Mami

GOOD LUCK EBONY! http://www.hellosandwich.jp