Wajima Kirimoto Woodcraft Workshop

True lacquer finished counters in the Hilton Tokyo Chocolate Boutique.
New applications
Of all the workshops in Wajima, the Wajima Kirimoto Woodcraft Workshop is somewhat different.

An assortment of mini-pull planes close at hand on the workshop floor.
Firstly, the workshop does not exclusively produce lacquerware items.  The majority of workshops in the city do—they apply true lacquer to a wooden core commissioned from a supplier.  So just as the name suggests, being a supplier of wooden cores for bowls, dishes and other household items is just part of the work carried out in Tai’ichi’s workshop, which also produces its own lacquerware items.

Stacked cedar food boxes with a simple detail await completion—they almost resemble a modernist piece of architecture.
Tai’ichi Kirimoto is the Managing Director.  He is a bit different too.  He studied design at university and then after graduation he worked for Kokuyo, a large stationery goods producer.

Delicate work with hand, eye and
sharp chisel.
So strictly speaking Tai’ichi is not a “craftsman”.  Nevertheless, we could say that woodcraft is in his blood.

Both his father and grandfather before him fostered the development of the workshop, which Tai’ichi now runs, and he too is anxious to see the company grow and expand into new areas of endeavour.  “True lacquer is not just a material of tradition” could almost be his motto.

He is different in another way too.  Most workshop owners have a strong character and Tai’ichi is no exception.  But he is also bursting with energy and enthusiasm, a real dynamo.  This is clearly something which helps to drive the company forward.

Under his guidance the workshop is producing a very robust lacquerware—a metal spoon can be used without fear of damaging the lacquer.

While Wajima lacquerware has a reputation for being robust it is not really suitable for use with a knife and fork.  This inevitably limits its use to serving Japanese foods eaten with chopsticks or a lacquered wooden or bamboo spoons.

Just a small part of a collection of samples which can be made by the workshop.
So in order to make the final finish even more hard-wearing, Tai’ichi pioneered a finish using powdered diatomaceous earth, which is usually used for the ground of lacquerware.

Looking like pencils, chopsticks are coated with true lacquer before the pointed end in pushed into a board ready for them to go into a curing cabinet.
Even more unusual is the way that Tai’ichi has been able to introduce the use of true lacquer to finish interior items or for decorative purposes in a retail setting.  Working closely with architects and interior designers the workshop as a whole and especially its resident lacquer artisans have perfected a finish using a cloth soaked in true lacquer for counters.  The resulting textured surface is both characterful, sturdy and long-lasting.

Ritz Carlton Kyoto Sushi Bar—hard-wearing counter of cloth
finished with true lacquer.
Used decoratively, the true lacquer finished backdrop to the customer counter at the Takaoka eatery.
This kind of specialised work goes on alongside of the regular production of wonderfully crafted pieces of woodwork, some to be lacquered and others to be nothing more or less than expressive of the beauty of wood.

Courtesy of Tai'ichi Kirimoto
A visit to the workshop is simple proof of just how simulating an environment there is at Wajima Kirimoto Woodcraft.  Nevertheless, there would not be such a vital atmosphere if it were not for Tai’ichi Kirimoto—a powerhouse of professionalism and energy topped off with a dash of humour.  Surely the perfect leader.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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