‘For the first six years of training under my father, every single piece I made, no matter how pleased I was with it, he would inspect it, find a fault in it and throw it in the bin‘ – Toru Tsuji, maker of woven-wire kitchen utensils. It’s a long and difficult journey along the road to becoming a master craftsman in Japan.
Last Saturday three young craftsmen from Kyoto came to Postcard Teas in Mayfair, London to demonstrate their crafts and to talk about about what they do and why they do it. One is a maker of metal tea caddies, one of woven-wire kitchen utensils and one of ceramic teaware. All three have served long apprenticeships under the watchful and extremely discerning eyes of their respective fathers in the Kyoto studios where their grandfathers, great-grandfathers, great-great-grandfathers… have also spent their lives dedicated to the pursuit of mastering their crafts, and passing on these unique skills to the next generation.
These three craftsmen are all founding members of an exciting new collective in Kyoto who have recently created the Go On Project, a “joint collaboration of Kyoto craftspeople who apply the time-honoured techniques of Japanese art and design to create inspiring new designs with contemporary international appeal“.
Go On’s first project is Japan Handmade where the craftsmen apply their traditional skills to create novel designs for the international market. In the spirit of this forward looking, collaborative approach they have teamed up with Danish Design Studio OeO to bring new life to products which draw on the time-honoured traditions of Kyoto craftsmanship within ceramics, metal-knitting, teaware and wood and bamboo crafting.
“Japan Handmade offers a playful approach to Japanese crafts and is driven by a bold ambition to explore new design boundaries and introduce the world to the tactile pleasure, poetry and soul of Japanese design aesthetics“.
So, without further ado, let’s meet these talented Kyoto craftsmen!
Takahiro (Taka) Yagi of Kaikado, maker of the world’s most refined tea caddies, ‘chazutsu’ in tin, copper and brass (silver to order).
There are 130 steps involved in the process of making one of these completely airtight chazutus, which can also be used to store coffee, dried herbs, spices, biscuits, pasta, or anything else you might want to keep fresh.
These beautifully simple, streamlined scoops are waiting to be hand-engraved (by Taka, at lightening speed!) with a name at the customer’s request.These newly made caddies shine brightly, but as they age they will develop a patina with a more subtle tone – it is this gradual transformation over time and through regular use which is greatly cherished in many Japanese crafts.
Toru Tsuji of Kanaami-Tsuji, maker of exquisite woven-wire ‘kanaami’ kitchen utensils in metal and natural materials.
The shape and depth of this woven-wire tea strainer make it ideal for Japanese tea, which is typically served in deep, cylindrical tea cups. The tea-strainers which are designed for black (English) tea are shallower and have a more tapered shape so that they fit snugly inside an English tea cup.
The hand-drawn template on which the base of the tea-strainer begins to take shape.
An intricately woven wire fruit basket. Kanaami-Tsuji also create hand-woven ladles, tofu servers, trays for deep-fried foods, roasting utensils, coffee spoons… and more.
Yusuke Matsubayashi of Asahiyaki, maker of beautiful pottery and porcelain teaware at the Asahi Kiln which has been producing teaware since 1600. Yusuke’s father, Hosai Matubayashi, is the 15th General Master of the Asahi workshop, and Yusuke is next in line .
A selection of the pottery tools used, all handmade by Yusuke himself to suit his personal style and technique. The tools are made from bamboo, and a variety of woods.
A variety of tea bowls ‘chawan’ with different glazes which were all produced at the Asahi Kiln, alongside their signed wooden boxes ‘tomobako’. Another of the Asahi workshop’s signature pieces, the ‘kyusu’ or ‘hobin’ porcelain teapot used for preparing steeped green tea ‘sencha’.
Yusuke gave a demonstration of the Japanese tea ceremony, preparing powdered green tea ‘matcha’ for one of the guests. He served the tea in an Asahiyaki tea bowl featuring the trademark softly mottled glaze, explaining that the tea master will select a particular tea bowl for the ceremony with an image in mind of what the patterns and tonalities of the glaze represent, although he will not transmit this subjective feeling when offering the bowl to the guest but rather invite the guest to discover for himself what the bowl expresses to him. The mottled shapes might be perceived as a starry night sky to one person, to another the sunlight glistening on a stream, or to another the glow of a thousand fireflies in a forest.
Thanks to Chayou tea events for the heads up on this event!