Yasutaka Komiya was born in 1925. In 1978, he was designated a Living National Treasure for his work in 'Edo-komon' dyeing.
His family was in the dyeing business and had a factory. When he graduated from elementary school, he was apprenticed to his father, Kosuke (also a Living National Treasure), from whom he gained a strong grasp of dyeing techniques.
Through his training, he realized that he should study more about paper patterns and dye in order develop his skills. His efforts paid off and he became accomplished in colored komon dyeing, in which patterns are dotted as finely as fog.
It is said that Komiya is the best Edo-komon artist and everyone who likes tea knows his name. But he is modest, saying, 'it is impossible to make good komon-dyeing by my power alone'. He says that by working together with other fine craftsmen, such as paper-pattern-makers, that he is able to achieve the excellent quality he does.
Fukumi Shimura was born in Omihachirin, Shiga Prefecture, in 1924. In 1990, she was designated as a Living National Treasure for her work in Tsumugi-fabric.
When she was 17, she started learning weaving from her mother. When she was 30, she decided to work independently as a Tsumugi-fabric craftsman and divorced her husband. She learned plant-dyeing on her own and made lively works one after another.
Her work's charm is in its harmony of rich colors, carefully extracted from nature's plants. She integrated traditional patterns, like stripes, with plant-dyed silk and developed Tsumugi-woven kimonos into art. Her efforts and accomplishment have been highly valued.
Shimura has made many works on the theme of historical stories; she chose 'The Tale of Genji' in particular as her lifetime work. Her gracefully woven tsumugi with plant-dyed silk presents heartfelt images from these stories .
Komin Osawa was born in 1941, in the district of Takaoka, famous for its copper-utensil industry. In 2005, his 'chukin' work was designated as an important intangible cultural heritage.
Chukin is a goldsmith technique that encompasses metal-fusing, mold-injection and casting. The craft dates back to the Yayoi period. It includes various casting methods such as, 'sogata, 'rogata, 'sunagata' and 'yakigata'. With the yakigata method, large work such as statues could be manufactured. Yet experience and mastery of the technique are necessary in all processes of the work.
Through the yakigata method, Osawa discovered his original 'igurumi' method to achieve his own aesthetic effects. Moreover, he also experiments with the beauty of geometry.
It is common for Osawa to work until midnight, yet he asserts with a fresh smile, 'Something just comes out of my brain when I'm working really hard.'
Sayoko Eri is a 'kirikane' artisan born in 1945 in Kyoto. Now, she works with her husband Sohei Eri and their son Kohei crafting images of Buddha with their company Heian Butsusho, based in Okazaki, in the Sakyo area of Kyoto.
Kirikane may be roughly translated as 'snip gold' or 'thin gold'. Basically, it involves working with gold foil: burning it, stripping it and using it as an implement. Furthermore, kirikane is used to draw gold designs, mainly on Buddha images and pictures.
Sayoko Eri began to work with kirikane after marrying into the Eri family. By applying herself to study, she acquired the skill and concentration to manipulate the delicate foils. Her designs are truly precise and it is hard to believe that they were created by hand. In 2002, she was designated as a Living National Treasure for her work in kirikane.
Mamoru Nakagawa was born in 1947 in Kanazawa district, Ishikawa Prefecture. In 2004, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his copper-casting and metal inlay techniques.
After graduating in fine art from Kanazawa College of Art in 1974, he was apprenticed to Kaishu Takahashi, a metal craftsman and studied copper casting and the traditional skill of metal inlay. In addition to learning traditional techniques, he also experimented with various materials, such as 'tagane', and mastered his own techniques to create original contemporary pieces. Whereas traditional cast metal vessels tended to be monotone, Nakagawa introduced color and brought a fresh sensitivity to the craft.
Nowadays, Nakagawa works as a professor at Kanazawa College of Art and as a director at the college's research section where successors to the craft are instructed.
Akira Saito was born in 1920. In 1993, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his 'chukin' work, an intangible cultural heritage. Chukin is a form of metal casting using molds and the lost-wax (or cire-perdue) technique.
Saito lost his father when he was a teenager and, to feed the family, he took over his father's atelier and fumbled along with the technique, finding his way. He lost everything during wartime, yet luckily he met a former teacher and cultivated his skills.
His motto is to create a piece that is 'simple but as broad as the universe'. He found his own method called 'fuki-wake' which uses two types of metals. He is over 80 now, but he is still making powerful and vigorous pieces.
Osamu Suzuki, the famous ceramicist, was born in 1934 in Dachi, Toki City, Gifu prefecture. In 1953, he graduated from the Ceramics Department of Tajimi Industry High-school, and started working at a laboratory of Maruko-toen studying glazes and clays, in order to support his father, Michio. He made efforts to accumulate technological information even though traditional learning emphasized pottery making.
In 1959, he exhibited his first Shino-ware round dish form, a set of five dishes, at the 8th Modern Japanese Ceramic Exhibition and the 6th Japan Traditional Handicraft Exhibition. He won a prize at both exhibitions. After that, he received many awards and in 1982 he won the 19th Gold Prize from the Japan Ceramic Society.
Though wood-fired kilns were traditionally used in his local district, he has consistently made Shino ware using gas-fired kilns and has been highly-valued because of his great works, establishing himself as a leading proponent of modern Shino ware.
In 1987, he won the highest prize of all from the Ministry of Education. In 1994, he was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Asset Holder (Living National Treasure).
Shino is the first example of full-dressed glazed ceramics in Japan. Its thick glaze is white, soft and pitted like an orange. Shino has a very unique image.