Yoshihiro Okada creates beautiful designs from the thing you'd normally throw away
EC: This Artist Makes Orange Peels Into Masterpieces
Credit: Photos courtesy of the artist, Illustration by Lauren Kolm

When I peel, say, a clementine, it's a mild challenge to get the skin off the fruit in one whole piece. I almost always try, and sometimes I end up with a wonky flower-like creation, but most of the time it's a mess: a few different pieces, juice on my fingers, and pith under my nails. So that's why, when I first saw artist Yoshihiro Okada's beautiful, delicate work, I was especially amazed. Okada's medium is citrus peels. Using only a sharp knife and his fingers, he creates simple, gorgeous designs from the whole peels of oranges, limes, and lemons.

As Atlas Obscura explains, Okada got his start in 2006, when he noticed that an orange he had just peeled looked a little bit like a scorpion. Formally trained as an artist, he became preoccupied with getting this right, so for two weeks, he worked for half an hour a day until he was satisfied. These days, there's a method to the peeling madness: "He starts with two tangerines with the same design drawn on their skin. He peels one and uses that shape to guide his revisions on the second. He moves on to the second one. He peels. He compares. He repeats."

Okada has set rules for himself in this endeavor. Each shape he makes must use the whole peel, so nothing can be removed from it, and nothing can me added. At this point, he's created more than 170 designs, including everything from many-legged prawns and fuzzy sheep to zodiac symbols and images representing the Tribes of Israel. In this practice, it seems like Okada has found a sort of life philosophy too: "One of the key words which characterizes this art is compromise.... Once one part is changed, the other part is changed also.The designs always come back to one round sphere. So in that sense, they are inevitable designs.”

Read on for images of the artist's work.

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Credit: Image Courtesy of the Artist
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Credit: Image Courtesy of the Artist
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Credit: Image Courtesy of the Artist
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Credit: Image courtesy of the artist
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Credit: Image Courtesy of the Artist