17/04/2018

FunaAsobi Gallery—Exhibition Notice


28th April to 6th May
Made to Last—Recent Work by Hanpu Suda
Hanpu has a workshop in Tsukuba City where he makes these beautiful bags, which are asking to be used everyday.  They are robust, functional and really good looking, too.

4/28~5/6 「いつも持ちたいかばん」展 ~須田帆布~ つくば市に工房を構える、須田帆布の個展です。 毎日ガンガン使いたくなるかばん。 丈夫で機能性あるデザインが素敵です。

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20/03/2018

The Way In


Eaves and Gables
Both of these buildings stand close to the eastern shore of the Noto Peninsula.  Although they are not of any great age, they are both traditional in style and thoroughly Japanese in construction and layout.  There is nothing eclectic about them.  While they both follow regional patterns of vernacular architecture they have individual characters.  Their individuality is partly determined by where the main entrance is located relative to the roof.


Although both entrances are off centre, the building standing by a river sports a well defined and decorated entrance to the left of the facade.  The entrance of the other house is located to the right of the facade and is inconspicuous.  It is, however, recessed.  Doing so provides some shelter from rain and snow for those entering and leaving the building.

Despite having a rather characterless entrance, the wall under the gable end of the roof is full of character—the horizontal and vertical elements stand out against the areas of white wall between them and the lean-to at ground level is capped with a tiled roof as are the windows on the upper floor.  All of these features contribute greatly to the character of the building.

The ground floor lean-to is, in fact, a covered veranda, where washing can be hung to dry.  The generous eave of this roof helps to protect the veranda when the glass screens are drawn back to let in some air during the hot humid summer months.  The ground glass in the sliding screens provides some privacy and is augments by more shoji screens covered with paper flanking the rooms behind.

The building by the river, however, relies on the small hip-and-gable roof over the entrance, thus strengthen the character of the whole facade.

There is in fact another entrance to the left of the projecting, grand main entrance.  I can only suppose this side entrance functions as a backdoor, somewhere for the family to come and go as they please.

Both of these houses have shared features as well as exclusive characteristics.  But it is the positioning of their entrances—either under the eaves or under a gable—that is the key to how the plan develops internally.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright


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12/03/2018

Eclectic Developments

Hiding behind this European sash window is the plastered door of a Japanese style storehouse.  The weather boarding is done in a Japanese way and may actually be protecting a plastered wall.  The sum total is an eclectic mix.
Mixing Styles
Not long after arriving in Japan and starting my studies in architectural history at Tokyo University of Art and Music, I was taught the word wayosecchu (和洋折衷).  Literally it means a mix of Western and Japanese styles.  It is often used with reference to buildings combining indigenous architectural elements with some stylistic features of Western architecture.  Many of these buildings date from the latter part of the eighteenth century, although the style persisted well into the middle of the twentieth century.

This building in Wajima appears to be a good example of how Western architectural features were handled by Japanese designers or house carpenters.  The style of sash windows could quite easily be from the United States or Europe.  But, if we look more closely, beyond the glass there is a very traditional Japanese style storehouse within.

In the past timber-frame storehouses with heavily plastered walls became one way merchants tried to protect their valuable goods from being consumed by fire, which was endemic—urban conglomerations of wooden buildings were so vulnerable especially during the winter months when humidity levels are low and seasonal winds can fan the flames.

A simple country style storehouse with a mud and straw daub over what could be a bamboo wattle and a structural timber framework.  The walls need protection and the gable end of the roof is unusually deep for that reason.  The plastic lean-to is of course a modern addition.
In the countryside farmers had to make do with mud wall storehouse.  Thick plastered walls were beyond their budget.

It was in the big cities that such storehouses were common and it was there, too, that status could be emphasised by incorporating Western architectural feature.  This was also true of the interiors of such buildings.

This eclectic mix of styles was something of a compromise or a transitional phase of development of Japanese architecture.

Many examples of this eclectic style of building can be seen all over Japan but this example in Wajima is pretty much unique.  A traditional plaster-walled storehouse cocooned within a building boasting features that originated far across the sea.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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21/02/2018

Aesthetics of Tea


Respect is shown and respect is given.  Everything is in its place and all of our senses are tenderly touched in a way we will never forget.Jin Kitamura Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright
Dedication and devotion
Most people will have a complete understanding of the maxim “art for art’s sake”.  But what about “craft for craft’s sake”?  Is the meaning more or less the same?  I would say that in both cases a degree of indulgence is suggested on the part of the artist or craftsperson.

In the case of art the notion is one of a pure “art”.

A pure “craft” is, perhaps more than anything else, something extolling the skills necessary to make an object.  This may result in it becoming something to be admired rather than used, although that is not always the case.

Far less commonly heard is “art for life’s sake”.  In this case something of the purity of a work is compromised for a purpose—this could be political, decorative, or simply to enhance the experience of life in some way.

A “craft for life’s sake” is much easier to define as the function is clear and its aesthetic qualities are an added extra to enhance the enjoyment of life.  This, of course, is also true of a good piece of industrial design, itself a kind of craft. (See blog Japanese Industrial Art 22/12/2017)

As twilight deepens guests arrive at the bidding of the host.  The path is lit and anticipation is nurtured.
Jin Kitamura Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright
 In a collection of writings on aesthetics, Shuichi Kato (加藤周一1919-2008) uses these two maxims—“art for art’s sake” and “art for life’s sake”—as a way of trying to better understand the aesthetics of Tea in Japan.

He feels that neither of these maxims fully describes the artistic qualities and overall approach to be found in the culture of Tea.  Instead he attempts to describe Tea as “life for art’s sake”.

Kato maintains that when the practices of Tea were being refined in Japan before the fifteenth-century, the guiding maxim was “art for art’s sake”.  By the eighteenth-century, it was an “art for life’s sake”.  But in its heyday during the fifteenth-, sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries it was, as he puts it, “life for art’s sake”.

This could perhaps be interpreted as being an example of a complete and utter dedication to the art and skill of tea ceremony, in which, incidentally, craftwork plays an important part.

The skill which is exercised in the making of the paraphernalia used in a tea ceremony is phenomenal.  And rightly so.  It needs to match the precision and care with which the host and guests move, behave and play a part in the whole ceremony, itself so natural and yet so programmed as to be an expression of “life for art’s sake”.

The dedication with which true lacquerware is made and decorated is staggering.  But not unique.  There is an envious commitment by the Japanese to the presentation of food, for example.  In modern life the Japanese can sometimes be totally focused on doing something “in the RIGHT way”.  I see nothing wrong in this.  Although I would have to admit that it may sometimes inhibit creative development.

The strict ritualisation of a tea ceremony can be off-putting.  However, in the hands of a skilled, sympathetic host and equally sympathetic guests, the whole experience is elevating, meditative and touches all of our senses tenderly and yet permanently.

Nevertheless, who would dare to completely pooh-pooh a maxim designed to foster perfection.  Long live “life for art’s sake”.  And “life for craft’s sake” too.

A tray or platter to match the stringent needs of a tea ceremony.  Made by Wakashima Senior.
Reference
Collection of Essays on Art—The Aesthetics of Tea—Two Hypothesis
Shuichi Kato (加藤周一1919-2008) 
Published by Iwanami Shoten, 1967

美術論集、茶の美学二つの仮説
岩波書店 昭和四十二年九月二十七日


Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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03/01/2018

2018 Happy New Year



あけましておめでとございます

Woof woof…
2018 is the year of the Dog, inu in Japanese.  In a general sense the dog is seen by the Japanese as the protector of little children.  It is also regarded as an amiable creature in literature and folklore.  The dog even has a sacred status.  It is the only animal allowed in Koya San where the head temple of the Shingon sect of Buddhism is located.  

Two koma inu guardian shrine dogs—bottom left—are just samples of the work done by a stone mason in Wajima.  To the right are racoon dogs, perhaps intended as a novelty item for a garden. Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright
There is an Inudera or “dog temple” in the mountains of Harima.  And it is the guardian statues of koma inu as well as lions that protect the approach to temples and shrines all over Japan.  So let us hope that our year of the Dog will be save!  After all, we need protecting for all kinds of perils these day, both natural and manmade.


Takashi Wakamiya has looked for other meaning in the design of this tea ceremony tea caddy produced by the lacquerware collective Hikoju Makie, which he heads.  Inside the lid there are three cuddly puppies.  What could be more adorable.  Above them is a spray of bamboo().  In a way these motifs can be seen as a representation of the character for warai, to laugh or smile().  


This character has two parts.  The top half is a simplified form of the character for bamboo.  And then below is a character not much different from the standard one for dog/inu ().  

This play on words and characters adds substance to the qualities of the design.  It also provides a talking point to entertain and delight the guests of a tea ceremony.

A sense of happiness, hope and even a gentle chuckle are sure to accompany any spontaneous glimmer of a smile that these images may evoke.

Happy New Year of the Dog.

Tea caddy images courtesy of Hikoju Makie, Copyright


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22/12/2017

Japanese Industrial Crafts


“…life for art’s sake…”
The Winter Equinox.  Many people in the UK have been waiting for this day—the shortest day after which each one becomes a little longer.

Christmas Day is fast approaching and the New Year is just a few more days away.  For many people around the world this is a season of merry making and, for some, a time to relax and do some reading on the subject of Japanese crafts perhaps.  I do hope so.

A few years ago I was alerted to the existence of a series of books on many aspects of Japanese culture.  The series was published in English by the Board of Tourist Industry, Japanese Government Railways in a handy size clearly aimed at the tourist market.  There are forty volumes in the original series first published between 1934 and the early part of the 1940s.

The original volumes are particularly appealing.  The printed pages with photographs are excellent for the time.  The covers are an absolute delight, made from a matt coloured paper with an attached coloured illustration and a dust jacket of glassine—like a thin tracing paper.  The covers are unmistakably Japanese.  A number of hardback volumes were subsequently published in the 1950s roughly following the same format but looking far less “Japanese”.

It is the introduction to the volume on Japanese Industrial Arts that I would like to present.  This volume was copyrighted and published in 1941and written by Seiichi Okuda (who seems to be 奥田誠一).


Please note that the way Japanese is now commonly written in roman letters has changed.  In this piece, bizyutu is now usually written as bijitsu.  Industrial arts are referred to as kôgei but these days this word is used as a general term for craft, although often referring to a repeatable craft item as well as studio craft.













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11/12/2017

Exhibition Notice



HIKOJU MAKIE Exhibition~ Featuring work by MIWA KOMATSU

This makie panel was produce by Takashi Wakamiya, Makie by Ayano Konishi.
483x383x30mmOriginal drawing by Miwa Komatsu.
The exhibition runs from  6th~12th December 2017
 GINZA MITSUKOSHI DEPARTMENT STORE GALLERY 7F

Based on an original drawing by Ayano Konishi, this makie panal was produced by Takashi Wakamiya who heads Hikoju Makie and features the work of Miwa Komatsu.  The panel was also worked on by the woodcarver Arisa Oguro and the makie artist Ayano Konishi.

彦十蒔絵 若宮隆志展~Featuring 小松美羽~
彦十蒔絵の作品に加え、注目の現代アーティストとして国内外でめざましい活躍している小松美羽氏の神獣たちを、木彫作家 小黒アリサ氏、蒔絵師 小西 紋野氏らのコラボレーションで蒔絵作品として再現し、新たな命を吹き込んだ作品を製作しました。
*当イベント写真は小松美羽氏の作品「幸せに生まれ、幸せに栄える」を漆芸の技術を駆使して製作しました(蒔絵漆芸額 483*383*30mm)。
製作:彦十蒔絵  蒔絵担当:小西紋野
会期:2017126日(水)~12日(火)

場所:銀座三越 7階 ギャラリー