Exhibition Notice

Takashi Wakamiya and Shochiku Tanabe Exhibition, ZEN
Takashi Wakamiya, whose work was featured in this blog back on 10th February 2015 is having an exhibition with Shochiku Tanabe at Takashima Department Store in Yokohama, from Wednesday 22nd June through to Tuesday 28th June.  The exhibition theme is ZEN and the gallery is on the 7th floor.  It is open from 10 am to 8 pm (closing a 4 pm on the last day).

There will also be a talk (in Japanese) on Saturday 25th June from 2 pm in the gallery.  Participating speakers: Shinya Maezaki―Art Historian, Kyoto Women’s University, Shochiku Tanabe and Takashi Wakamiya.  Entry is free.


場所:横浜高島屋 7階 美術画廊
イベント:レクチャー 前崎信也(京都女子大)美術史家×田辺小竹×若宮隆志
          7階美術画廊 参加自由 625日(土)午後2時~

ADDRESS: 1-188, Kekachidaira-machi, 
                   Wajima-shi, Ishikawa, JAPAN 928-0093

Tel.+81-768-22-8601 FAX. +81-768-22-8651


On Design—New Old, Old New

Something Different
Tohachiya has many products which are “traditional” in design.  They are made by traditional methods, too.  But the company also has an adventurous spirit.  It has, for instance, been taking new steps along the path of colour—finding new colours in lacquerware to appeal to contemporary customers.

With a good deal of encouragement from Junei Shioji, Tohachiya is trying all kinds of things.  Take the miniature “tearoom” for example.  Calling it a tearoom is perhaps a little bit of an exaggeration but essentially that is what it is—a space defined by a timber frame and screens.  It can be set up in a larger area as a place where two or possibly three people can sit in the traditional way on tatami mats and relax while chatting and drinking tea.

This model shows how the space could be given a real tea house feel.
Junei envisioned it as an installation to be set up within an apartment or in one corner of a house.  Inevitably she says it is a place into which adults rather than children might retreat to read, to do calligraphy or simply to relax, perhaps listening to music.  The soji screens of translucent paper would only provide a barrier, closing off what is beyond from view, both when looking out or looking in.

This is something that generally happens in a room dedicated to the tea ceremony.  In soft even lighting in a space where the host and guests sit to participate in a tea ceremony, the views to the outside are obscured.  If there are any shadows they are soft and gently graded.  It is as if at twilight. The sunlight has gone and it is when the fluorescence of light lingers.  The sounds from beyond the walls are no more than a background to what is happening before the participants.  Ideally those sounds might be the occasional twittering of birds, a light fall of drizzle on the garden foliage, drips of water from the eaves or a breath of wind in the trees.  In an atmosphere of relaxed concentration, the tea ceremony is played out.  All that is felt and expressed is special and touches the heart, soul and mind with an unsurpassable meditative quality.  In candle light all these sensations become even more special

Photo ©f Copyright Jin Kitamura Bill Tingey
Although Junei’s mini tearoom cannot provide all of the special qualities of light and space to be found in a dedicated tea ceremony room, essentially speaking it is a capsule, providing a feeling of security, comfort, shelter and cosiness, all of which can promote a meditative frame of mind.  We all need that sometimes.  And the Japanese seem to have an aptitude for finding it—sometimes on a train, sometimes on a park bench.  So why not in this measured cocoon of comfort.

Timeless in its custom, the flowers at the entrance to the showroom are just another way of making a statement—something simple and yet so effective.

Even at the entrance to the workshop, great care is given to making a statement.
A selection of surface treatments in true lacquer pioneered by Tohachiya.  Old in treatment new in application and colour.

I am often struck by the way in which traditions in Japan are given a new lease of life.  Suddenly what was “old” appears as if it is “new”.  And even cutting edge contemporary design solutions have their “traditions” if we care to look for them.  In all of what represents modern Japan, there often seems to be a consistency, a oneness and above all a sense of harmony.

All photos by Bill Tingey except where noted. Photo © Copyright

Do feel free to pass on the address of this blog to anyone you think will be interested.  Or post 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.

Exhibition News June 2016

Lacquerware in Vienna
The Wajima Lacquer Study Group will be taking part in the Masterpiece Collection 2016 to be held at the Novomatic Forum in Vienna from 23rd to 25th June.  This prestigious event hosts firms and organisations which are manufactures of precious goods with a living tradition producing fine work of the upmost precision.  What better than the work of Shioyasu Workshop to headline the work done in Wajima using true lacquer and techniques that have been handed down over the years.  Some of Wajima’s finest work will be exhibited along with various pieces of equipment used in its production.

Masterpiece Collection 2016
novomatic forum friedrichstraße e 7 a 1010 wien

The successful exhibition "Masterpiece Collection 2016" will be presented for the 4th time at the Novomatic Forum from June 23rd-25th, 2016 .  The exhibition sets its focus on manufactories, designers and creatives who keep up high handcraft perfection with their work. All in all 30 exhibitors will show their national and international rigour craft, precision work, culinary art as well as interior and design.

For further information please send an e-mail to info@purpur-communication.com   

Some examples of Wajima Lacquerware and equipment used in its making are shown below.  Photographs courtesy of Shioyasu Workshop Photo © Copyright

A fine nest of bowls and lid.

A traditional barrel in which true lacquer is stored.

Just one example of a spatula used to apply true lacquer.

An example of a pot in which lacquer tapped from the tree is collected.

Two examples of the "rat tail" brushes used to decorate fine pieces of lacquerware.


Tohachiya—Lacquerware manufacturer and distributer

Past, present and future
Tohachiya is a manufacturer and distributer of lacquerware.  I say “manufacturer” with a degree of caution as it may give the wrong impression.  Although it is one of the larger firms in Wajima, it would be a mistake to imagine lines of skilled employees working to produce fine matchless products in the way in which Wedgwood does, for instance.

It is the overall scale of production rather than the number of employees, which sets the firm apart.

Tohachiya is, however, using the same materials and techniques as the smaller workshops.  To satisfy their loyal customer’s needs, however, they must do things differently.

Tohachiya supplies a number of Michelin starred restaurants in Tokyo.  Some are the most elegant and exclusive style of ryotei restaurants catering for an equally exclusive clientele.

In one case this means that they have supplied 100 lacquered boxes for set meals.  Some get damaged and need repairing.  Others may just be beyond repair and need replacing.  After a number of years in service the basic 100 all need replacing.  To be able to do this some have to be held in reserve.  And after being made they need to be allowed to “rest” for some time before being handed over to the restaurant.  Although it wears off in time, new lacquerware can have a distinct odour that customers would find disagreeable.  Despite this restaurant owners would settle for nothing less than pieces of true lacquerware with its distinctive feel and tenor of quality.  That may be difficult for those who have never handled a piece of true lacquerware to really understand.  But it is true.

Checking on the needs of their customers falls to the managing director, Mr. Shioji, who may spend a week or two every month in the capital visiting restaurants which use their fine lacquerware.

Tohachiya has been in business since the latter part of the nineteenth-century.  Since then they have built up a dedicated customer base.  As a consequence they have also produced hundreds of different items and designs for their many clients.  Their archive of soup bowls and lids is staggering.

Much of their business is of a traditional nature and pieces of black or red lacquerware predominate.  Black is more or less a constant colour but red can vary from vermillion through to a browner hue.  Fashions change and Tohachiya makes a considerably effort to keep up with current trends.

Junei Shioji showed me some of their newest colours and styles of bowls when I visited the showroom.  The low, elegant lidded bowls in eye-catching colours were particularly exciting.  They may as yet be too avant-garde for some of Tohachiya’s customer but young people are finding them attractive.

The table setting with a black stacked lunch box, restrained purple napkins, elegant glasses and black bowls is stunning.  However to many people it might appear funeral (see first photo).  Nevertheless in Japan it is seen as an elegant assemblage of colours.

Like many other firms and workshops in Japan, Tohachiya is making some items that have a long, honoured tradition.  And yet somehow they do not necessarily look dated.  If I’m honest they don’t look contemporary either.  It is something of a conundrum.  In some cases pieces are only slightly different in design or colouring from traditional items.  What Tohachiya is striving to do, however, is to find a new direction, one with a more contemporary feel while still maintaining a sense of style and quality whatever the future brings.

http://www.tohachiya.com/輪島塗について/index.html will take you to a page where you can access an English or French site.  To view the online gallery, look at the fifth drop down tab from the left marked オンラインカタログ. You will find information about the items in English.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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Exhibition News

An Exhibition of Recent Work by Kazuta Furukomi
Kazuta, who is a member of the Wajima Lacquer Study Group, is having a exhibition of some of his recent work at Site Aoyama in Tokyo.  His work was first featured in this blog in June 2015, Snapshot 2:  Who have I met?, when a tea caddy lid was presented.  His work was again featured in December 2015, Chased, Engraved—Chingin.  More recently one of his baby spoons was featured in May 2016, Baby Spoon 4/4.

Site Aoyama
2-7-9 Minami Aoyama
Tokyo  107-0062

Tuesday 7th June—Monday 13th June
11am—7 pm daily (except 7th June from 2 pm and 13th June until 4 pm)

11:00~17:00 (初日14時から/最終日16時まで)
title: 古込和孝 漆芸展
artist: 古込和孝
media: 工芸
from artist:

Photo courtesy of Kazuta Furukomi, 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.


Baby Spoons Compleated

Over the past four weeks I have been featuring the baby spoons which were made by members of the Wajima Lacquer Study Group—Wajima Urushi Tanteidan.  The making of these spoons was part of a project to boost morale and enthusiasm in the community after the earthquake of 2007.

Some of the spoons are clearly functional whereas others are clearly commemorative—that is their function while they also act as a talisman of good luck, health and happiness.  As such they are a piece of memorabilia to be cherished in the years to come by both child and parents.

A few of the spoons in this lacquerware collection were made and decorated by the person who is named.  Most, however, were designed and then made by specialists.  In the case of lacquerware this is common.

Think of the “art works” of Damien Hirst.  He is a “commissioning artist” or “designer”.  Although he may understand the mechanics of what he commissions, it is unlikely that he actually possesses the skills to make such things as the famous diamond studded skull.

This approach is particularly true of much of the work produced in Wajima.  The services of a specialist can be called upon at every stage.  The designers do, nevertheless, have a grounding in true lacquerwork and know this mercurial material’s strengths and weaknesses.

The baby spoons themselves are roughly equivalent to a Christian spoon.  These are given by family members when a baby is baptised into the church.  The spoon might be engraved with the date of the Christening and are made of silver or are silver platted.  They tend to be rather simple.  Some people may commission a spoon.  These days that would be a rare occurrence.

Many of the spoons in the collection could not have been made were it not possible to draw upon the skill of a specialist to realise what the “designer” wanted.  “Designer” and “artisan” are symbionts, each reliant on the other and willing to draw on each other’s strengths.  There is a bond of mutual respect.

In a sense this highlights one of the strengths and weaknesses of Wajima lacquerware.  This is true, too, of the other traditional crafts that exist in Japan today—I have said as much elsewhere in this blog.  There is an abundance of skills but in many cases a shortfall in design ability.  Saying that is, I believe, a challenge for both designer and artisan.  There are many ways to work together.  The opportunity to do a piece of work is what is needed.  The Baby Spoon project was just such a golden opportunity.

All photographs courtesy of the Wajima Urushi Tanteidan—The Wajima Lacquer Study Group

Do feel free to pass on the address of this blog to anyone you think will be interested.  Or post 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.