2016 Snapshot 18 Learning from the Ancients

Tai’ichi Kirimoto is the third generation of his family to be managing the Wajima Kirimoto Woodcraft Workshop, which specialises in the making of items primarily for the true lacquer market.

What he his holding is rather special.  It is a replica of a dish from the Shoso-in Repository (http://www.kunaicho.go.jp/e-about/shisetsu/shosoin01.html) in Nara, south of Kyoto.  An original example known as a “lacquered flower-shaped dish” (serving tray) may have been made in the eight-century or later.

The repository itself is of considerable architectural value and interest.  The items it has protected for centuries, however, are of inestimable value, not simply because of their age but also because of their artistry and the craftsmanship which they demonstrate.  Many of the items are from foreign climes.

Items like this tray were deposited by local authorities in payment of taxes, while the original use of the building was, simply speaking, as a “warehouse” for rice.

So why was this replica made at Tai’ichi’s workshop?  He feels it is important that the craftsmen and women on the staff try and make things they have never made before simple as a challenge—in this case can those working today learn something from the ancients?

In fact Tai’ichi even encourages staff to contribute to the making of items for projects which are often design lead and a collaboration between himself as a trained designer, a client and specific members of the workforce.  This kind of approach has taken the company into new and exciting fields for the use of wood and true lacquer.  Tai’ichi and the company as a whole are held in high regard by many of the artisans in Wajima, itself a hub of creative energy in the field of true lacquerware for centuries.

So, what else has the workshop been involved in?  More next time.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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