12/07/2017

Rustic is good!

Old Goroku bowls on display at Fukushouji Temple.
A bowl from Goroku
This is a goroku-wan, a bowl said to have first been made in the Goroku area close to Wajima, in the north of the Noto Peninsula.

Its shape is similar to the red lacquered bowl featured in the last blog—http://urushitanteidan2014.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/a-matter-of-taste.html.  But in character it is more like that bowl in its unfinished state.

As noted before I would be happy to see that soup bowl finished much more simply—not just in red lacquer—and completed with a ‘folkcraft’ character, so that it would command a dining table, whatever the surroundings or style of cuisine.

The Goroku bowl has a similar authority, tenor and unpretentious folkcraft air.  Its large size contributes to its character in no uncertain way and the high foot helps to cement its overall style, despite not having the highly appealing rustic air of the unfinished bowl from Ryuji Ikehata’s workshop.

A high foot on ceramic and lacquerware bowls commonly found in Japan make them easier to pick up in one hand, so that they can be raised to the mouth.  Admittedly, with a high foot there is perhaps less need to pick up the bowl.  The elevation provided by such a foot, however, also contributes to the air of offering or prasad as it is known in the Hindu faith—a devotional offering to a deity.  

We could even say, for example, that the way that the Japanese hand over even a business card in the politest way with both hands is all part of an attitude of respect shown for people and things by the Japanese.  By being raised up by a high foot, the food is presented well and in a sense respected.  Is respect expressed and is a devotional offering made?.  How similar and how different are they?.

Well used bowls of the same type, even used to hold true lacquer.  The bowl is big enough for a whole meal.
With western food presentation, it is now common to have a large charger plate onto which a slightly smaller plateful of food is placed.  Doing so spiritually elevates the food and the presentation is more appealing.  I would suggest, however, that it falls short of having the charisma of a devotional offering.

The Goroku bowl is said to be similar to those of the Muromachi era, spanning the period from the very end of the 14th century until the 1570s.  It therefore pre-dates Wajima lacquerware.

The shape and style of the Goroku bowl have become more popular in recent years, so perhaps it will become a must-have item of tableware.  But let’s hope that it remains unpretentious in its demeanour and does not become gentrified.  After all, rustic is good!

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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30/06/2017

A Matter of Taste



A bowl…
When I visited Ryuji Ikehata’s workshop in Wajima, my eye immediately fell on this half-finished soup bowl, seen here upside down.  The colouring looked good and the fact that some of the wood of the carcass was showing really appealed to me—as I thought highly unusual for a piece of Wajima lacquerware.

The adapted drill on which to turn a bowl so that the ground can be applied also intrigued me.

The black foot and lip are covered with a loose material fixed to the carcass with lacquer.  This is done so as to strengthen the weakest points.  I assumed that these areas would be finished with glossy black lacquer and that several applications of raw, moderately transparent lacquer would be used on the body of the bowl to highlite rather than hide the grain and tooling.

I was interested to see just how the bowl turned out and asked Ryuji for a photograph.  What a surprise it was to see it finished in red.

The somewhat rustic appearance of the bowl in its half finished state had vanished under the red lacquer, giving the bowl a lighter and unexpected elegant appearance.

Ryuji Ikehata Photo © Copyright

Ryuji was unsurprised by my suggestion that it would look better in black with the wood grain exposed.  But he says that he sells three times as many red items as black ones.  Why?  Well, for one reason, red is a colour of celebrations in Japan.

“It’s a matter of taste” is something we often hear.  “Each to his own” in other words.  These are usually expressions of personal taste but here it could perhaps be termed “national taste”.

The unfinished black bowl has a “folkcraft” character and in conducive surroundings could look wonderful.  The red bowl to me is a trifle characterless and yet beautifully finished.  The carving of the body is somehow wasted but made the most of in the unfinished bowl.

I suppose there  is no right or wrong answer to this dilemma.  Make both!  Well yes but the manufacture of a piece of lacquerware is costly in both time and money.  Ryuji feels it might have been better to have decorated the bowl more, thus justifying the price.  I feel that more options should be offered so as to perhaps attract a younger buyer, for example.  After all, the “vintage look” is popular at present.  Although a stressed finish would certainly not be acceptable for a car, for some tableware and interior decorating items it is highly fashionable.  Whether or not it is your taste is a different matter.

I just feel that it is a pity that lacquerware does not try to break into this area of market trends and offer more options.  But in the end its all a matter of taste.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright


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Exhibition Notice—Taiaki Yano Exhibit at FunaAsobi Gallery


Taiaki Yano works in a number of different mediums including glass, ceramics, and fresco painting.  His work in glass alone is extensive, covering mosaic glass, blown glass, and something called core-formed glass.  This ancient method of working glass is combined with other techniques to form items with lids and glasses with feet.  He uses mosaic glass techniques for plates and platters.  He has even combined glass and terracotta in pieces of sculpture.  We are also privileged to see new fresco work in the not-be-missed exhibition.

The exhibition runs for Friday 14th July to Sunday 23rd July.  Open from 10:00 to 18:00

Photo Copyright © FunaAsobi Gallery

矢野太昭展
7/14(金)~7/23(日)
Gallery Funa-asobi  10:001800

矢野太昭のガラス・陶彫・フレスコ画の個展です。
モザイクガラス、吹きガラス、そしてコアガラスといった、古代のガラス技法を
組み合わせて制作した蓋物、足付の杯。そしてモザイクガラスのプレート。
テラコッタとガラスを使った彫刻作品etc.
また今回、新しくフレスコ画も制作してくださいました。


Photo Copyright © FunaAsobi Gallery


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21/06/2017

Exhibition Notice—Takashi Shinohara



Takashi Shinohara Exhibition—New pieces of Suzu Ware from the Noto Peninsular

5th Floor Gallery, Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Department Store, Tokyo
Open from 10:30-19:30 Wednesday 21st June to Tuesday 27th June

珠洲焼 篠原敬展
6/21(水)~27(火)
日本橋三越本店 本館5階 Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi 10301930
今年の新作をご覧いただけたら幸いです。
Photo Copyright © Takashi Shinohara


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11/06/2017

Exhibition Notice—Funa Asobi Gallery


Funa Asobi Gallery—Porcelain by Kenji Nishida


Friday 23rd June to Sunday 2nd July—Kenji will be at the venue on Friday 23rd June

Kenji gained vast experience at a wheel producing the body for pieces of porcelain while working at the Kutani kiln.  He has also produced slab built pieces, boxes and more delicate items as well.  HIs work is special in that it allows flowers in a vase or food on a dish to look their best, without stealing the showa harmonious ensemble.  The fine pieces on show are likely to take us on a new uncharted path of excellence.





Photo Copyright Funa Asobi Gallery

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04/06/2017

For a Monk




A Nest of Bowls


Sadly Japan’s resurrection from the ashes of war was in fact spurred on by further conflict beyond its shores.  First came the Korean War when Tokyo became a Rest and Recreation venue for troops.  The Ryukyu Islands as a whole remained under US occupation until 1972 while the rest of the country built for the future.

Vietnam was ravaged by war and Japan once again benefited indirectly from the fighting and made further strides along the path to total recover.

During these times industrial development in Japan gathered pace.  It was, however, a time when the quality of goods being turned out by some firms was poor.  ‘Made in Japan’ became a motto of distain.  But things changed.  Nowadays it is difficult to believe just how vehemently many Japanese products were scorned.  ‘Made in Japan’ is now a mark of quality recognised around the globe.

This transition, however, was more or less confined to industrially manufactured goods.  But what of the crafts?

It is easy to forget that Japan has such a long and strong heritage in the production of top quality craft items, which are either repeatables or one-off masterpieces.  In many cases they are household items in daily use.

This is true of this nest of bowls named Oryoki.  They have been produced in Wajima for many years, with the same attention to detail, precision and respect that we see abundantly evident in Japan’s industrially manufactured goods available today.

Forming part of the daily routine of a Zen monk, the shape and style of these bowls has changed little over the years.  Their use and the orderly life style of the monks can surely be attributed with having influenced the way that a large proportion of the Japanese now conduct theirs lives.  It is doubtlessly part of their national character— but difficult to deny or prove.

Zelkova is the wood of choice now as was likely in the past.  The turned and lacquered bowls are robust and treated with respect can be used without repair for many, many years.  In fact, being made to Wajima’s exacting standards, these bowls can be repaired if needs be and subsequently handed on from master to novice.

Although the demand for these bowls has now fallen, in the past considerable numbers were made and carried back home with monks who had completed their training at temples such as Sojiji Temple in Monzen.  In this way the robust nature of Wajima lacquerware became known, recognised and respected throughout the country.

The degree of design excellence, attention to detail and design solutions evident in many craft items, too, have certainly influenced industrial designers at work today.  The successes of the past have become part of their DNA, as much unconscious as conscious and something we could all perhaps learn from.


For more information on the Oryoki nest of bowls, please access https://terebess.hu/zen/szoto/oryoki.html.  Also, there are design parallels with the Box of Stacking Trays produced by Wajima Kirimoto Woodcraft featured in the post on A Box of Trays published on 05/05/2017.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright


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19/05/2017

Exhibition Notice—Funa Asobi Gallery



Funa Asobi Gallery—Cut Glass by Toshiyasu Nakamura

Friday 2nd June to Sunday 11th June 2017


After leaving the Toyama City Institute of Glass Art located on the northwestern coast of Japan, Toshiyasu further honed his skills in glass but now mainly works with cut glass.  The softness of the cut edges and surfaces draw us into a kaleidoscopic world.  In this exhibit, however, his work in clear glass creates a different see-through world to delight us.








05/05/2017

A Box of Trays



Pure Design—Wajima Kirimoto Woodcraft
The craft scene in Japan is multi-faceted.  There are heroic examples of studio craft.  There are folk crafts.  There are fine traditional crafts representing repeated and well tried formulas to create very beautiful pieces of tableware that not only grace people’s tables at home but also find their way into eateries both lowly and highly exclusive.  It is something special about Japan.

To have a venerable heritage of craftsmanship that is still thriving and accessible in the twenty-first century is exceptional. It is a valuable reference point for craft items made today.  It is the super-speed and interconnected electronic world we live in today that gives as access to all this.  A resource to be respected.

To have ancient skills available is certainly not to be scoffed at.  Add to this a design sense that has been years if not millennia in the making and what do we have?  A piece of modern design with a heritage.  A piece of design with an inherent sense of custom coupled with a ritual and ceremonial observance of practice.

An eminent example of such a piece of work is this box of stacking trays.  It was made in the workshop of Kirimoto Woodcraft.  The clarity of its lines and overall design has much to do with the fact that Taiichi Kirimoto is himself a grandee of this kind of craftwork—a trained designer with inherited woodworking skill.

Made of asunaro, a type of cypress native to Japan and adored on the Noto peninsula, the box houses trays of various depths on which to serve food.  Presented at a function in Paris earlier this year, the plain wood is finished with a material which enhances the qualities of the timber while preserving its natural aroma.  Just two of the trays are finished with vermillion true lacquer using the simplest of apply-and-wipe technique that has been handed down for centuries.

Taiichi Kirimoto second from the left.
This beautiful item is representative of what the Japanese do so well—a combination of the past with the present, while providing a highly functional solution of compact storage.  There is nothing self-conscious, nothing awkward.  It is just pure design.

Kirimoto Woodcraft Photo © Copyright

A video presentation in French and Japanese on the Kasane bako—A box of stacking trays:

Other posts on Taiichi Kirimoto can be found in from Noto at Wajima Kirimoto Woodcraft Workshop, posted 25/10/2016 and 2016 Snapshot 18 Learning from the Ancients, posted 13/10/2016.

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.