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Written By: Ryan Reese 

Sweets Kendamas has recently collaborated with the artist Luzumaki and released a one of a kind kendama called the Sweets x Luzumaki Kendama. Besides brandishing Luzumaki's signature artwork, the ken has a new BOOST shape.

   

Although Sweets and Luzumaki have collaborated on kendama's before, this model stands out as a modernly shaped, painted, and overall designed, kendama. While it's art begs to be displayed freshly forever on a shelf, the shape and paint beg to be played. Players and collectors alike can enjoy this kendama, so it's not surprising it sold out 10 minutes after it was released. Now, we all know who Sweets is, but who is Luzumaki? Where does he get his artistic inspiration? And when did he begin to apply it to kendamas? These were all questions I have had for a while. And so with the newly released Sweets x Luzumaki collab, I figured it was about time I asked. So we exchanged some emails and soon enough, I was spiraling out with Luzumaki.

Ryan Reese: How long have you been creating the Luzumaki artwork? What were some of your early inspirations?

Lu: I first started doing the artwork mid 2014 on kens. A lot of my early inspiration came from japanese style tattoos and horror manga like Ito Junji’s Uzumaki obviously. It’s a combination of my nickname “Lu” and “Uzumaki”. Uzumaki translates to spiral/vortex in Japanese.

Do you think having your artwork on products is more beneficial than an art show or gallery?

In a way I guess. My artwork on products can travel and are more mobile than it would be in a gallery. Feel like it allows more people to be exposed to my artwork without having to go into an art show. Having my art on things like damas, skateboards, griptape, etc.. people can be exposed to my art from just doing things they enjoy or surrounded by often. I still want to do an actual art gallery show too though.

I’m assuming that you play kendama. If so, for how long, and how did you get into it?

I do, I started back in late 2013. I was living in Seoul, South Korea at the time. I first saw what one was from a post Kevin Markie (Klack) made on facebook playing one. I knew him from riding fixed gear bikes together in Charlotte. From then I was interested in trying to find one which was impossible in Korea at the time. Time goes by with no luck till I randomly look into a comment made on Publish Brand’s IG post about them being in Seoul. It was Ryan Cabal’s comment, I look at his profile and he’s got all these videos/pics of kendamas. From there we met up and I bought my first dama from him, a Sweets seafoam chameleon. Soon after I meet Shane Kohlmeier (Sweets lab painter) who was there for a year teaching English. After that we had our little group and hung out pretty much every weekend and jammed. I was able to meet Matt Sweets and Christian Fraser for the first time there as well when they stopped by after KWC 2014. I wasn’t doing artwork on kendamas yet but from then on we kept in touch and eventually things steadily progressed to where it is now.

I’m really impressed with your work with the tama’s, specifically the Leliel. For the expensive price, are these for play or are they decorative?

Thank you! Honestly before the clear coat, Leliel seemed the most boring. But after, it became my favorite when Shane executed what I wanted perfectly with the dino egg and deep blue pearl. Everything I make is designed to be played. It’s why I try and include different ways of tracking on the tama. Although I know for the price most wouldn’t want to play them. For me, a broken in tama is more beautiful than a pristine one. It makes it more personal, the wear in it shows the playstyle of the owner.

Would you let me try to yank spike that Yona Yona Maple Ozora Reshape before it sold out?

Sure, but if you missed you had to buy it :)

Ryan Reese is a writer and kendama player. See more of his work on Skillderness.org.