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.

No comments:

Post a Comment