Osaki Collection 3

The front windows provide necessary light and ventilation.  The decorative window above delivers a sense of quality and style.
Fine and Finer
The building housing the Osaki workshop and home was begun in 1925.  The layout is typical for such premises—the dwelling incorporating receptions rooms opens off the street and the rooms are accessed from a corridor running through to the back where the workshop and storehouse can be found.  The corridor is treated as part of the outside and shoes are only removed when stepping up into one of the interior spaces.  The corridor is lit from windows placed high up and smaller spaces have individual windows providing light and ventilation when opened—the summers are hot and humid so encouraging the movement of air is essential.  Exposed structural timbers and wooden floors glow as they are all finished with true lacquer.  The detailing of screens is as fine and as refined as you will ever see in Japan.

Although covered, this passageway runs from the front to the back of the lot and is treated like part of the outside, as shoes remain on.  The exposed timbers are finished with true lacquer.
The stairs rise behind this wall but are expressed as a kaidan-tansu, a traditional space-saving style of chest built like stairs.
The screen work is delicate and refined.
The workshop is toward the back of the lot along with a plastered storehouse, which has a substantial timber framework.  Such storehouses have for many centuries traditionally provided protection for rice and other agricultural produce and especially in towns protection from fire.

The monastic air of the workshop is heavy with the smell of true lacquer and concentration.

Most true lacquer craftspeople seem to prefer to sit on the floor with everything they need within arms reach.  Such spaces both large and small are characterised by the smell of true lacquer and the air of dedicated concentration is unmistakable.  It’s monastic.

Some of the most delicately rendered work in the Osaki collection seems to match the fineness of the detailing of the interior fittings.  Many pieces of decorated true lacquerware are painted using a makie technique involving the use of coloured true lacquer, gold and silver powders as well as chips of these precious metals.  Other fine decorative work is, however, done by chasing the surface of true lacquer, a technique called chinkin in Japanese.

A curl of true lacquer is released by the engraving tool.  (Example of chinkin by Kazutaka Furukomi.)
In some respects this technique is similar to how scraper board is used.  This art board is finished with a fine white clay that is then coated with black ink.  Scraping away the surface reveals the white below and produces an effect similar to engraving.  With chinkin the hard surface of true lacquer is skilfully engraved with a sharp tool before some true lacquer is wiped over the design to fill the engraved lines.  The excess true lacquer is then removed and the application of very fine gold powder, for instance, will expose the design.  It is therefore possible to produce a design with hairline delicacy.

The two examples of chinkin from the Osaki collection here are unusual.  The red bowl and lid are decorated with a delicate design of fine leaves that are expressed in black.  It was made as a sample sometime during the middle of the 20th century for domestic use as well as for inns and restaurants.  It is still in production and very popular with certain customers.

The black bowl and lid, however, were probably first made toward the end of the 19th century.  The design is rendered with a fine tool and not immediately discernible.  This refined piece of decoration does not shout at us to be appreciated.  It is as if the cicada is quietly waiting to be discovered in the dark—it is something else fine and refined to be found at the Osaki workshop.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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