TARUMIZU, Kagoshima Prefecture--The art of paying attention to detail has found a patron saint in button artist Shiho Murota.

The painter, based in this southwestern city, has single-handedly revived the traditional craft of ceramic Satsuma buttons featuring charmingly illustrated designs.

Satsuma buttons became popular overseas during the Meiji Era (1868-1912), but the craft fell into disuse as the number of artists capable of creating the intricate and detailed designs dwindled.

The buttons are made of Shiro-Satsuma ceramic ware and mainly feature designs themed on nature. Using these small canvases, 1 to 5 centimeters in diameter, intricate designs are drawn at the level of millimeters.

The paintings are so detailed, it is easy to feel being drawn into them.

“I see space in these small buttons,” Murota said.

Satsuma buttons were originally produced by the Satsuma Domain, or present-day Kagoshima Prefecture, for export to Europe to earn foreign currency. The craft had garnered attention as representative of Japonism overseas since the Meiji Era.

Murota spotted the buttons in a magazine by chance and was fascinated by their beauty while working for a Satsuma ware potter as a painter of tea utensils.

She found herself increasingly drawn to reviving the craft, and after 10 years working as a pottery painter, she went her own way in 2005.

With no artisans to guide her, she had to learn everything from scratch to create a new style of Satsuma button.

“I've always wanted to be a pioneer,” Murota said. “I am lucky because I have been able to create original buttons without being bound by tradition.”

Her creations drew critical acclaim after they were exhibited at an event in the United States that brought together distinctive buttons from around the world.

Murota caused a stir when one of her works was sold at a U.S. auction for about $1,000 in 2016.

For the most part, the artist produces Satsuma buttons on a made-to-order basis. Prices range from around 10,000 yen ($89) per centimeter.

The pieces are so popular that customers must wait one year for their orders to be completed.

Murota characterizes her mission as a revival, not a restoration.

“My role is to make things that match the times,” the painter said. “Because what's in fashion today will become antique in 100 years.”

Her works often feature insects and Chinese Zodiac animals, among other motifs.

There are also novel buttons featuring skulls or local specialties like yellowtail and amberjack.

Murota seems set to lay the foundation for a new tradition with her pliant sensitivity and playful spirit.

“The more challenging an order is, the more motivated I become,” she said. “I want to try my hand at designs based on jewel beetles, fireworks and fireflies.”