18/09/2018

Masterpiece Collection 2018 Exhibition Notice


A display of both traditional and contemporary true lacquerware products and a great opportunity to see a demonstration of traditional makie techniques during the show.

Recognised as “the world’s leading cross-collection fair”, The Masterpiece Collection 2018 will be held in Vienna at the Grand Hotel Wein from the 21st September.  Details below.

Representing some of the very best examples of true lacquerware from Japan will be the Shioyasu Urushi Kobo, a family run business established in 1851 and now lead by Shin’ichi Shioyasu, the Managing Director.

We produce a great variety of tableware and other decorative items using true lacquer, known in Japan as urushi.

Our workshop and showroom are in Wajima, which is situated on the Japan Sea coast of the Noto Peninsula, almost due north of Tokyo.

The city is well-known as a centre for the production of Wajima lacquerware, which is renowned for its quality, decorative techniques and durability.

This year we are very proud to be able to take part in the Masterpiece Collection 2018 in Vienna.

We will be exhibiting a wide range of items—some used in a Japanese tea ceremony while others are contemporary pieces of tableware.

There will also be a demonstration of the makie technique on our stand.  Simply speaking this involves the use of gold and silver chips and powders, which are sprinkled onto true lacquer before it hardens.


Demonstrating some of the individual makie techniques will be Junnosuke Kawayachi, who was born in Wajima in 1981.  He is the fifth generation of a very long line of makie artist/craftsmen in his family.

Junnosuke became an apprentice under a Wajima makie master when he was 18 years old and then struck out on his own at the age of 25.  He therefore represents the future of makie work in Wajima.

The Masterpiece Collection 2018 will be a great opportunity to see authentic pieces of Wajima lacquerware and to meet some of the craft’s experts.

We have some invitations to the exhibition for 22nd and 23rd September, so if you would like one, please let me know by 15th September.

We are very much looking forward to meeting you at Masterpiece Collection 2018.  Our stand will be located to the left of the exhibition venue.

Shin’ichi Shioyasu
Director, Shioyasu Urushi Ware

Masterpiece Collection 22nd and 23rd September 2018

Grand Hotel Wien
Kärntner Ring 9
A-1010 Wein

Receptionby invitation only from 19:00 21st September.
22nd & 23rd September 10:30 - 19:00

Masterpiece Collection (German)
http://masterpiece-collection.com/ausstellung/

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10/09/2018

Exhibition Notice—Wako, Ginza, Tokyo



Collaboration—Exhibition Notice
This exhibition of collaborative work is being held at Wako Department Store in Tokyo.
The rabbits are the work of three individuals:  Takashi Wakamiya was in charge of the true lacquer work giving the red and black rabbits their distinctive high-gloss lacquer finish.  The original forms in wood were carved by Arisa Oguro.  And the ceramic form to which the true lacquer was applied was made by Seiko Wakasugi.

If nothing else, collaborative work such as this is perhaps a new “tradition”.  But of course this work is so much more as it creates what perhaps one individual could not easily make.  It is perhaps part of the future.

This exhibition is on from Friday 14th September until Monday 24th September (Only open until 17:00 on 24th)

More information in Japanese is available at the site below.  Some information is also available in English (machine translation) from the same site.



This is a joint piece of work by Haruo Mitsuda (metalwork for the butterfly), Chikuunsai Tanabe (bamboo work) and Takashi Wakamiya (lacquerwork) for Hikoju Makie Workshop. 


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06/09/2018

On Route 249


By the Road
Driving around the Noto Peninsula is a delight.  First of all, there is very little traffic.  The roads are well maintained and the signage is good.  Besides being in Japanese, place names are also displayed in Roman letters.  Anyway, these days a SatNav will keep you on the right road to your desired destination.

North along Route 249 is where the Sea of Japan battles the craggy edge of the Noto Peninsula.
Then there is the scenery.  Route 249 north from Wajima, for instance, follows the coast and provides a variety of views of the Sea of Japan, which tends to be rough or at least has a swell with breaking waves.  In the winter it can be very rough though.

Buoy-o-buoy—family fun beside Route 249.
Buoy-o-buoy—an installation worthy of a second look beside Route 249.
Without reaching the northern tip of the peninsula, Route 249 turns east and negotiates a steeply rising loop in the road.  It is a surprise to suddenly find yourself high above the coast and traversing a bridge across a deep valley, which runs down to the sea.

The Kuromaru House is a tribute to the ageless skills of the carpenter.
After passing through a tunnel the road gradually descends and passes close to where the Kuromaru House stands.  This folk house deserves a post to itself.  And will get one in due course.

A little further down Route 249 we come into Suzu.  It is here that the FunaAsobi Gallery occupies and old farmhouse, which is definitely worth a visit. (Search FunaAsobi Gallery on from Noto.  Closed November to April Tel: +81 (0)768-82-3960)

But quite soon this major route turns south and begins to skirt the eastern coast of the peninsula.  More views of the sea ensue but this time it is the calmer waters of the sea proper and the almost enclosed, often mirror-like expanse of Nanao Bay.  Much further on, Route 249 becomes Route 159 and continues southward to Kanazawa.  Before that it is possible to join Route 1 and to wend your way back north to Wajima where you can reflect on all that you have seen.  And to even have a bit of a chuckle perhaps.

“I am sorry for any inconvenience caused”.
Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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19/08/2018

Fine Work by CCR—Aizawa Woodwork


Small dishes in wood for some of the delicacies of a Japanese meal.
A Challenging Future
The best pieces of lacquerware have a wooden core.  The preparation of this is just as important as any of the many stages that a piece goes through before reaching completion.  (See BLOG dated 28/07/2018 All together, Division of Labour)

It is the skill with which the wooden cores are completed that is so important.  It is so easy to think that it would be possible to get away with mistakes at this stage, simply because so many application of a primer, ground and countless coatings of true lacquer are to follow.

The platter resembles the leaf of the ginkgo nut tree.
It is little wonder then that in Wajima there are a number of suppliers of the wooden cores of innumerable pieces of lacquer tableware.  Some are made like boxes others are turned on a lathe.  Some pieces are made to order in small batches while others are one-off creations but all, without exception, are finished to the highest of specifications.

The Boss and his wife.
Aizawa Woodwork is just one of the companies supplying woodwork for the lacquerware industry in Wajima.  The company is run by Kouji Aizawa with valuable support from his wife Youko.  The company was established in 1948 and has always made an effort to develop new techniques and yet still relies on handwork when absolutely necessary.

The tool is guided by a template ensuring a perfect cut.
John Ruskin and William Morris—figureheads of the Arts and Crafts movement—both championed good design and fostered the continuance of handwork while deploring the standard of machine-made goods at that time.  Although they may not have condoned the use of machinery per se, I have a feeling they would have embraced the use of Numerical Control Router (NCR) technology if they had been able to see the results.

A small selection of a full display of router bits.
Developed during the 1950s, it subsequently became possible to program one of these routers with a computer to cut and finish wood to a desired shape and form.  Nowadays the quality of the work produced by what are now Computer Controlled Routers (CCR) is outstanding.

For those difficult shapes only a small plane will do.
This does not mean to say that a skilled craftsperson could not produce work of a similar quality.  However, once programmed a CCR can produce staggeringly fine work over and over again and relatively quickly.

Armed with such a powerful tool, some of the work produced by Aizawa Woodwork does not necessarily become a piece of Wajima lacquerware.  Recognising how many people including the young these days enjoy seeing woodgrain in a piece of tableware, a coating of a food safe oil or beeswax is used to satisfy a demanding and discerning public.  This is even true in Japan as well as beyond its shores.  In fact not being able to see the woodgrain of a piece of lacquerware is a disappointment to more than just a few.  So for Aizawa Woodwork a challenging future lies ahead.

Even on a wet day some planks of wood rest in the dry while they season.
For Japanese and English site:  https://azw-woodwork.jp

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright, Aizawa Woodwork Design © Copyright

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28/07/2018

All together

Masahiko Sakamoto


Division of Labour
It is difficult for me to begin to explain just how important the division of labour is in the  making of a piece of Wajima true lacquerware.  It is almost unique and I am struggling to find a similar system of manufacture, be it industrial or craft-based.

On a production line for cars, for instance, besides robots there are operatives with specialist skills who attach parts to the slowly moving carcass of a car.  But although these employees are highly skilled they are not making the parts.  Their job is to assemble or attach parts, not make them.

In the case of lacquerware, however, a number of highly skilled specialists contribute one by one directly to the finished article.  They might actually rub down a previous application of hardened lacquer or apply an additional coat of true lacquer.  This is the way that many workshops produce lacquerware—by a division of labour.  A few craftspeople make pieces of lacquerware from start to finish.  They are, however, in the minority and are usually making a piece of studio craft rather than something of a repeatable kind.

But how can a number of skilled artisans work independently and yet contribute so meaningfully to the completion of a fine piece of lacquerware?  In order to try and answer to this question I went to the Shioyasu Showroom and Workshop (http://www.shioyasu.com with English )in Wajima.

First I spoke to Masahiko Sakamoto.  Before starting employment at the Shioyasu workshop he worked independently on lacquerware along with his wife who was a makie artist.  Makie is the fine and detailed decorations which are sometimes applied to the more expensive items of true lacquerware.

Masahiko mixing the paste
which forms a ground and primer to a
lacquerware core.
So, just how do a number of artisans with specialist skills manage to work in an organised sequence?  Masahiko’s answer was instantaneous.  “Each person must produce work which is unquestionably good and recognised as such by the person before as well as the next person in the chain”.

In other words each stage of the work must be of the highest possible quality.  There is no opportunity to cover up mistakes or to get away with poor workmanship.

Remember that we are not talking about a finished article.  Each person in the chain must, however, produce work of the best possible quality and in doing so contribute directly to the quality of the finished article.  It is the quality of the work at each stage that instills a sense of respect.  Along with it comes a sense of trust.  And it is this command of respect and trust which Masahiko and many others like him have, and that gives them a sense of pride and self-esteem in their work.  A job done well and beyond reproach—a very Japanese characteristic.

Masahiko is responsible for applying the ground and primer to pieces of work, which will become bowls, dishes or other items of tableware.  His work, therefore, is early on in the sequence of production.

Akira Kosaka begins to filter lacquer
through a piece of handmade Japanese paper.
Akira Kosaka, on the other hand, is primarily working on finishes.  Perfection is demanded and requires special measures.

Lacquer for a final application, for instance,  is filtered by squeezing it through a piece of handmade Japanese paper.  The strength of the paper is staggering and the result is lacquer with no specks of dust or other impurities in it.

Akira will produce the kind of finish that is required.  His work is respected and he can be trusted to produce work of the very best quality.  Just like Masahiko, Akira is proud of his work.

The strength of the paper is amazing.

The paper is twisted down to almost nothing.
Akira first applies the red lacquer, leaving the rim for the black lacquer.

He now feathers the red lacquer into the rim of wet black to achieve the desired graded effect.
I have always been envious of craftspeople and especially of those who, like Masahiko and Akira, work on making a number of the same item.  After all, by making the same item over and over again it is possible to hone a skill and to gradually become better and better at doing the job.

Why am I envious?  Well, having been trained in fine art (painting) and then having worked in a design office, doing things for the first and sometimes only time becomes a challenge of a different kind to that experienced by Masahiko and Akira.  There is little or almost no opportunity to immediately learn from mistakes or to stave off blunders by repetitive actions.  It is only the wastepaper basked that gets filled.  Of course, these days working on a computer has made the job a little easier.  It is the same with photograph too.  We can now see the image immediately and either accept it, reject it or even modify it back at home.  For me, though, there is an enormous degree of satisfaction in doing the kind of work Masahiko and Akira do and it is something I have tried to incorporate in my own work.

Some of the tools of Akira’s craft.
Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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09/07/2018

Exhibition Notice

FunaAsobi Gallery—Exhibition Notice
FunaAsobi Gallery Tenth Anniversary Show
13th July to 22nd July

This year marks the Tenth Anniversary of the opening of the gallery in Suzu.  We are hoping that this show will bring a great deal of pleasure to all those who visit through its exhibits by a number of artists who have kindly co-operated in the stagging of the show.

Contributing artists are:  Midori Tsukada, Kozue Tsukarara, Kazunori Hori, Reisia, PONNALET, Taiaki Yano, Mamiko Susuki, Yui Syakunaga, Kenji Nishida and others.

7/13~7/22 「あそびの美」~舟あそび10周年企画~ 今年珠洲でギャラリーを始めて10年になります。 作家の方々にご協力をいただき、お茶の楽しさ、しつらえることの楽しさを お伝えする企画になればと思っています。 
出展作家: 塚田美登里、塚原梢、堀仁憲、Reisia、PONNALET、矢野太昭、鈴木マミ子、釈永維、西田健二 etc 

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44 Years On



Haneda, Changes
My wife Lou and I made our first visit to Japan in July 1974.  The Aeroflot flight from London’s Heathrow was punctuated by a one hour stop-over in Moscow.  The strength of the disinfectant used by the airline made it difficult to forget what was a long and less than comfortable flight, especially as the smell lingered in our clothing for sometime.

The burly cabin crew did not help to make things any easier.  We were unceremoniously woken when a tray of food was thrust in front of us.  “Eat!” was the command.  Why Aeroflot?  It provided the cheapest fare at the time.

Having landed at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport it was the level of humidity confronting us as we left the plane that became a long lasting memory.  We were met by a wall of moist air, the likes of which we had never experienced before.

The “modern” airport buildings were a disappointment.  Was it due to the long flight or was I expecting too much.  I did not expect to see traditional Japanese wooden buildings but the run-of-the-mill structures there did nothing to announce that we had actually arrived in an Far East.  It was all a little unreal.

Leaving the confines of Haneda by taxi via a short tunnel, my perception of where I was changed immediately.  Emerging into strong sunlight I suddenly felt I was in Japan.  A small colony of cormorants at the edge of Tokyo Bay by the tunnel exit along with the clusters of somewhat rundown low-rise buildings were all, strangely enough, rather reassuring.  So this was our first glimpse of real Japan.

At the beginning of June this year I found myself repeating the journey we made 44 years ago, this time courtesy of an Air France flight at a price I simply could not turn down—£387!

The flight also arrived at Haneda, which has been greatly expanded by reclaiming land from the waters of Tokyo Bay.  There is now also talk of making Haneda a 24/7 airport, partly because Narita is so inconveniently far from the centre of Tokyo.

Haneda now has three terminal buildings, two of which are for domestic flights—one mainly for Japan Airlines flights and the other for All Nippon Airways.  The terminal buildings are all modern palaces of concrete, glass and metal and of a style repeated in part or whole heartedly throughout the world.  So, apart from the abundance of Japanese customers and ramen and sushi eateries, there is little to suggest that this is a gateway to Japan.

The cormorant colony has apparently gone.  And what has happened to the cityscape of 1974 is inevitable and astonishing in equal measures.  The highways out to Haneda slither over the ground between highrise structures or rise above the urban melee of buildings to alarming heights.  But this is how urban Japan has been developed.

Although the modern planning of amenities at Haneda’s terminal buildings is exceptional, they do not have the kind of heritage of such places as say the Burlington Arcade in London or on a grander scale the Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert in Brussels.  History is something money cannot buy.  Haneda’s terminals do, however, cater for more than just passengers.  It seems that the airport is considered to be a good place for a date by young and mobile Japanese couples.

An unusual tray of food with four lacquered bowls.
So, Haneda has changed enormously since Lou and I first landed there and will, no doubt, change more in the run up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  But what has happened to Japan’s crafts since we were first there?

Many of the recognised traditional crafts still have a place in people’s homes but their presence is far less dominant.  This is particularly true of lacquerware and can be represented by the decline in the numbers of those making such products.

The Center for Cultural Resource Studies associated with the Institute of Human and Social Sciences at Kanazawa University has recently published a comprehensive report focusing on Wajima lacquerware.  The research was carried out to try to understand the challenges this craft faces and what the future may bring.

The document reports on how local producers emphasise the skills and techniques used in the production of Wajima lacquerware, which is know nationwide for its durability and robust construction.  While this is certainly an important factor, a number of others must also be considered, not least of which is how lacquerware can adapt to the changes in lifestyle of the Japanese.

In a lacquer workshop….
Both now and in the past much of the work has been done by highly skilled artisans who are specialists in their own field.  Some deal with making the wooden core of pieces, others are experts in the application of true lacquer.  And then there are still others who are masters of individual decorative techniques.  Very few of these highly accomplished craftsmen and women are every expected to be “designers”.

In many cases in the past it seems that the design of items was also carried out by skilled artisans—designs developed over time and by continuous refinement.  Or pieces may have been designed by somebody with an opinion about how a piece might look—the work of a “designer”.

In reality the number of artisans engaged in making Wajima lacquerware has fallen as has the number of firms employing them.  As suggested the production process can be broken down into four main areas—woodwork for a product core, application of lacquer, decoration and packaging.

In the 37 years between 1980 and 2017 the total number of individuals involved in production in Wajima has fallen from 2,550 to 1,349 (down by 1,201) but peaked at 2,893 in1990 due to a buoyant economy.  Likewise, over the same period the number of firms making lacquerware has decreased from 769 to 503 (down by 266) with a peak of 878 in 1991, also due to economic factors.

Skilled artisans are national treasures in their own right.  And they are essentially different from those who make pieces of studio craft.  The division of labour in Wajima is a well established culture.

….pieces of work are rubbed down.


Most of the traditional crafts in Japan rely on a number of highly skilled individuals to produce items of repeatable craft, not one-off artefacts.  Should things be left as they are?  Is there any merit in having “artisans” who design and “designers” who can make?  Who knows?

Meanwhile, Japan will go on changing in its own indomitable way.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

Do feel free to pass on the address of this blog to anyone you think will be interested.  Or share it on a social media site.  Should you wish to leave a comment, please do so by clicking on the comment mark at the bottom left of this or any of the other posts.   If you have found this blog interesting, why not become a follower.  Thank you.

Reference:  Kanazawa Cultural Resources Studies No. 18 Wajima Collaboration Project—Taking on the challenges of the future of Wajima nuri, Edited by Eri Matsumura
Center for Cultural Resource Studies, Institute of Human and Social Sciences, Kanazawa University

文化資源学研究、第18号、輪島連携プロジェクト―輪島塗の未来に向けた取り組み、松村恵里 編
金沢大学人間社会研究域附属、国際文化資源学研究センター
ISSN 21-86053X

29/05/2018

Exhibition Notice




Isetan Department Store, Shinjuku, Fifth Floor Center Park, Stage 5
Hikoju Makie/Takashi Wakamiya:  A chance to speak
Wednesday 6th June till Tuesday 12th June 2018 10:00—20:00

30 Years with True Lacquer: Past, Present and Future
Takashi Wakamiya will be giving a talk in the gallery on
Saturday 9th June, 14:00—14:30

Takashi Wakamiya was born and brought up on the Noto Peninsula surrounded by the rich countryside, which reached out to him almost without him knowing, and resulted in makie work full of rural roots.  He has been actively involved in projects to foster the regeneration of  Wajima lacquerware, with a view to being able to produce items fashioned from locally grown wood and finished with locally tapped lacquer.  The is a rare opportunity which should not be missed.



   輪島の田舎「南志見」に生まれ育ち、目に見えない故郷の自然や環境の力に育まれ生かされている感覚を蒔絵の意匠に活かした作品、輪島漆再生プロジェクト実行委員会の活動、輪島産木材に輪島産漆で制作した漆器などを発表します。どうぞこの機会にご高覧賜りますれば幸いでございます。


展示会名彦十蒔絵 若宮隆志展 ~若宮隆志が伝えたいこと~

会期201866日(水)~12日(火)10:30~20:00

場所「伊勢丹新宿店本館5階=センターパーク/ザ・ステージ#5」

ギャラリートーク
  日時:69日(土) 14:00~14:30

  トーク内容:うるしと30年「平成から未来へ」~若宮隆志の取り組み~

Hikoju Photo © Copyright

Do feel free to pass on the address of this blog to anyone you think will be interested.  Or share it on a social media site.  Should you wish to leave a comment, please do so by clicking on the comment mark at the bottom left of this or any of the other posts.   If you have found this blog interesting, why not become a follower.  Thank you.