Ohashi-san and Naoko, my interpreter for the day, picked me up in the van and we headed into the mountains behind Beppu.
- We drove up the mountain past rice paddies, bamboo groves and pine forests.
We were going to visit Hajime Nakatomi in Yufu: one of Ohashi-san’s fellow Bamboo Artists and members of BAICA. Ohashi-san founded BAICA naming it after the Bungo Plum Blossum, the Prefecture Flower of Oita. The flower has five petals and the group is to have five members. Ohashi-san explains that there are presently four members and they are looking for the fifth. The day Ohashi-san was deliberating on forming the group the Plum blossoms were flowering in a brilliant red-pink haze. BAICA is an experimental group of young bamboo weavers. It is a platform to strengthen their artistic practices, encourage through the journey and develop together.
We arrive at Injojo Temple: an abandoned temple that is Nakatomi-san’s studio.
I am speechless. Nakatomi-san greets us and we are welcomed into the studio. Nakatomi-san makes both traditional craft and experimental works. Both are technically complex and demand perfection: both are very different, but the result is the same; calm, seemingly effortless with visual harmony. His dedication to each step and facet of his practice coupled with his modesty move me. It is little wonder (I find out later) that his works have been exhibited throughout Japan, New York, London and Italy.
- Nakatomi-san with his exquisite traditional works
- The bamboo store
- < Traditional box with intricate Ajiro weave. Central: Experimental weaving. Contemporary works >
We discuss what makes a work traditional or contemporary and Nakatomi-san explains there are particular sets of rules for traditional works to follow; for example:
- The function of the object and the weave pattern follow traditions and align
- The top and ends must be ‘finished’ or woven back into the weaving so that they are hidden
- The forms that the object takes follow traditions
One of the contemporary works has weaving specifically used for eel traps. It’s a traditional but very natural flowing weave to conceal the trap in the water. Nakatomi has used it here for a vessel, distorting the form through the tensions of the weave and leaving the ends unfinished.
- Front: Eel trap weaving used in Contemporary vessel. Background: Sculptural constructions
For me Nakatomi-san’s more sculptural constructions (Prism and Natural Prism series) capture a moment. They articulate the space of space. They are at home here in the temple.
Beautiful work of beautiful people in a beautiful place.
View Hajime Nakatomi’s works at his website.