Makie, a lacquer working technique, is a traditional craftwork passed down through generations for over 1,500 years.
While other lacquer techniques such as “Hyoumon” and “Raden” originated in China, the oldest evidence of Makie lacquer was discovered inside Shousouin Temple. It is believed the Makie technique is indigenous to Japan and is unique in the world.
The word “makie” come from “maki” meaning “sprinkle” and “e” meaning “painting”.
In the makie technique, patterns and pictures are drawn on to lacquer ware with lacquer, and while they are still wet, gold and silver metal powders are sprinkled on to designs adhering to the wet lacquer.
Any excess powder protruding from the drawings and remaining unattached to the surface are later brushed off, thus allowing beautiful patterns to finally emerge.
Makie is further divided by its techniques: Tokidashi Makie, Hira Makie, Taka Makie, Shishiai Makie, Rankaku Makie among others. The technique of “shading off” by a way of sprinkling the powder is also used. Makie is an art form with a wide variety of expressions.
The fact that metal powders are not pasted, but “sprinkled” might give some insight into the Japanese characteristic of being finely tuned to details.
Mumyoi ware is a type of pottery made of mumyoi clay, which contains ferrous oxide and is obtained near the ancient goldmine on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture. Originally, mumyoi was used for medical purposes such as relieving symptoms of palsy, digestive problems, burns, and helping to stop bleeding.
The pottery was first produced in 1819, when they were fired at relatively low temperature. The large-scale production adopting high-temperature firing was started in 1857. Unlike other clay wares, Mumyoi ware requires extra processing efforts such as raw-polish, a process that polishes the products with cotton cloth before firing, and a process of polishing with sand after firing.
As Mumyoi pottery is fired in a kiln at a high temperature, it becomes exceptionally hard. It is well-known that Mumyoi ware produces a clear metallic sound when tapped. The more it is used, the glossier it becomes. Mumyoi ware is more suitable for daily use rather than for decorative purposes.
Toshiro Uchida is a silver craftsman from Tokyo and was born in 1925 in Daito-ku, Tokyo.
Silver is highly valued because of its beautiful surface and other unique qualities. Now, 90% of silverware in Japan is produced in Tokyo.
Tokyo silverware is tasteful and bright and is made using techniques developed in the Edo period, such as hammering and fine engraving. One technique is known as 'kiribame': a design is cut out of the silver and another metal, like copper, is soldered into the space.
Toshiro learned hammering from his father, Uzaburo, in 1946, and kiribame from Tomoe Ogawa. Toshiro is particularly good at kiribame.
In 1984, Toshiro was designated as a Tokyo Silverware Traditional Craftsman by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. In 1988, he was also designated as a Tokyo Traditional Craftsman. In the same year, he was awarded a prize and designated as a Tokyo Excellent Artist.
Technology in Japan allows for the production of the world’s thinnest gold foil. It is so advanced that gold alloy the size of a ten-yen coin can be stretched to the size of one tatami (traditional Japanese flooring: approximately 1.6562 m2). The technology for creating foil is no longer limited to just gold, but to all kinds of metals, which allows for a wider variety of colors as well. The ring above is made of acrylic fiber, foiled with sterling silver. The integration of the foil’s thinness with the absolute clarity of the acrylic fiber results in a ring that has ice-like characteristics, it being light, airy and translucent. The thinly stretched silver foil gives this ring the appropriate hard texture and feel that sterling silver should have.
-Sterling silver-foil finish
Design: Masako Saka (acrylic)
Produced by: Ubushina,Yudai Tachikawa
Bunaco is a technique where rolls of thinly sliced wood from a Japanese beech (‘buna’) are coiled, and then pushed by hand little by little to create solid geometric shapes. The buna tree, which made up much of the original forests of Japan, was used to create boxes for exporting apples before the development of the ‘bunaco technique’. However, as the bunaco technique developed, the buna began to be used in many other ways, such as for dishes and lighting instruments. The lamp above is actually two bunaco lights shaped like trumpets, attached together by a roll of buna tape. This lighting instrument is completely symmetrical at the point where the red beam of light is seen. What is unique about this bunaco lamp is the red light that delicately shines out from the middle part. This is because the central part of this lamp has fewer layers, making it thinner than the other portions of the lamp, and thus allowing the light to break through. The lamp was designed for a club called Lounge O. Perfect for interiors with dim lighting, this lamp releases magical and enchanting beams of light that give a room a unique feel. There are holes on the top and bottom of this lamp to release heat, and the bunaco can be detached from the metal base when changing the light bulb.
Size W×D×H (mm)400×400×1800
Produced by: Ubushina,Yudai Tachikawa
These illumination lamps can be seen at the HOTEL CLASKA, in Meguro district, Tokyo. The ceiling lamp on the left-hand side is made of tin. The design emphasizes the characteristics of tin, transforming it into a drum shape, and using it as a chandelier. Tin is one of the most stable of metals, and because the chandelier is 100% tin, it will not change color. Moreover, the inside of the chandelier gives out a clear luminous color. The lamp on the right-hand side creates a strange impression, because the light reflected by the brass plate seems to be floating. Brass is formed by the synthesis of copper and zinc. The color, the degree of hardness and the durability of the brass changes with the proportion of zinc added to it.
■ HOTEL CLASKA tin chandelier (left) ・ Wire foil lacquering ■ Illumination lamp (right) ・ Brass, glass, lighting apparatus ・ Size W×D×H (mm) 135mm×135mm×300mm ・ Designed (both) by Intentionars
This brass lamp is used in the lobby of the Hotel Claska in Meguro, Tokyo. Its design makes good use of light reflected from the brass.
This same form is also used to produce other pendent lighting and wall-mounted lighting fixtures at the hotel.
For the craftsmen, the idea of shipping their products without final coloring was like selling their products naked. There was a risk that small pinholes made by air or dust within the metal would show. But the casting techniques they used overcame such a risk.
It is a great challenge for craftsmen to try something that they would never have thought possible or to rethink their established works. But through projects like this, craftsmen could create something new that provided a stimulus to old designs.
■ＨＯＴＥＬ ＣＬＡＳＫＡ brass lamp
* Namagata casting
* brushed finish using a potter's wheel
*designed by Intentionallies
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa
The making of bronze gongs was introduced to present-day Ishikawa Prefecture about 400 years ago and it has become a traditional handicraft of the prefecture since then. The origin of the instrument is said to be in the percussion instruments in the ancient southern islands of Java and Sumatra. Later the gong came to Japan through China and Korean Peninsula. In Japan, they were mainly used as the signal for a start on a voyage and the tea ceremony. In Ishikawa Prefecture, gong manufacturing developed as tea ceremony gained popularity in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598).
It was Iraku Uozumi (1886-1964) who devoted himself to gong making in Kanazawa. He got absorbed in the study on sahari (alloy of copper and tin) casting and succeeded in creating gongs with superb resonance. He was designated as a Living National Treasure.
The pivotal point of a gong is its tone quality. The material used in bronze gong is sahari, or alloy of copper and tin. Sahari is one of the most difficult metals to alloy and the balance of composition decides the resonance quality. At the present time, the 3rd Iraku Uozumi has succeeded to the traditional techniques.