29/10/2018

Old or New?



A tea caddy with age
When I first saw this tea caddy I was confused.  “Is it old or is it new” I thought. Knowing that it was going to be exhibited at an antique fair in Hong Kong, I began to think it was old.  Nevertheless I decided that it was not ‘old’ as in antique but old enough to be called ‘vintage’.

It was the colouring, the design of the flowers and their rendering, which made me think it was a piece from the 1920s or there about.

This was a period in Japan when ideas from the West were still very fashionable but somehow had an awkwardness that traditional Japanese art and craft did not have, displaying instead a confidence and unshakable authenticity.

This eclectic and uneasy balance continued until the 1940s and 50s when Japan more readily embraced Western culture but this time with a confidence to display a homegrown vitality instead of something rather artificial.

On reading the notes Takashi Wakamiya had sent me, however, I soon realised that this caddy was new and of considerable interest.  It was made and decorated by Takashi’s workshop, Hikoju Makie in Wajima.

The way the lacquer was applied also seemed to be saying ‘vintage’.  And then there was the ‘glitter’.  And the combination of colours, too, I thought gave it a very particular character—ever so slightly dusty but gleaming nevertheless.  The blue was certainly a surprise.

It is not unusual for a very old piece of Japanese lacquerware to look ‘new’, simply because the finish is so perfect and the motifs are timeless.  But this caddy has a very particular presence.  It was not a surprise to hear that it was snapped up by a hungry collector on the first day of the fair in Hong Kong.

Although the glitter was reminiscent of the kind of gold or silver makie work that is often seen on traditional true lacquerware emerging from Japanese workshops, this was different.

Samples of finish using Kyocera gemstone grains.Photo Copyright © Bill Tingey

Takashi made use of Kyocera’s artificial gemstone technology to obtain the look he wanted.  Fine grains of opal were used and then, a number of samples were made culminating in this tea ceremony tea caddy—looks vintage but is consummately new, expressing more than just the present.

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10/10/2018

Exhibition Notice


The Artistry and Craft of True Lacquer  Exhibition at Takashimaya in Osaka

Hikoju Makie, Takashi Wakamiya:  The Artistry and Craft of True Lacquer
For the past 12,600 years the art and craft of true lacquer has developed along with the people of Japan.  But what of the future?  Our aim is to create works symbolic of the present while linking the past, present and future of this truly remarkable material.  Please take this opportunity of seeing some of our work at this exhibition, which is being staged at Takashimaya in Osaka.

This incense clock is a devise for measuring time with incense.  As the incense smoulders and turns to ash part of one’s like is gone.  This “fragrance time piece” helps us to become more aware of how long we are alive and how time is passing.

Takashi Wakamiya, Hikoju Makie

The incense clock measures 24x24cm and stands 29cm high.  The panels represent the four seasons with appropriate landscapes rendered in a traditional makie technique.

The Artistry and Craft of True Lacquer
6F Gallery, Osaka Takashimaya
5-1-5 Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka 542-8510

The exhibition runs from 17th to 23rd October
On Friday 19th and Saturday 20th the gallery will be open until 20:30 but will close at 16:00 on 23rd.
From 14:00 on Wednesday 17th, Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st some of the work on display will be explained.

彦十蒔絵(Hikoju Makie)
企画・広報・海外窓口(Planning, public relations and overseas window
高禎蓮(Wawa / Kao, Chen-Lien)
Mobile:+81-90-2375-9093
Address: 1-188, Kekachidaira-machi, Wajima City, Ishikawa, Japan

彦十蒔絵 若宮隆志展 ~漆芸の可能性~

漆は12,600年もの昔から日本人とともに今日まで発展してきました。
その漆を未来へ繋げるために平成の時代を象徴するような作品を目標に取り組んでおります。
大阪での初の個展となります。どうぞこの機会に御高覧賜りますようお願い申しあげます。

香時計は香りで時間を計る道具ですが、お香が燃えて灰になる事で自分の生きる時間が消えて無くなると感じました。今生きている時間を再認識する為に制作いたしました。
「香時計」/四季山水図 布目象嵌蒔絵 24 ×24 ×H29.5cm

会期:20181017日(水)~23日(火)
場所:髙島屋大阪店6階美術画廊
542-8510 大阪市中央区難波5-1-5
営業時間:10:00am~20:00
1019日(金)、20日(土)は20:30まで
*最終日は16:00まで

*列品説明:1017日(水)、20日(土)、21日(日)各日14:00~

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/

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.

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

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.

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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