While in Tokyo I had the pleasure of meeting Suzuki Tomoko from Ubushina. The name ‘Ubushina’ is derived from the old Japanese word ‘Ubusuna’ or place of birth. Ubushina is a special project managed by t.c.k.w inc. Their network flows through Japan, connecting contemporary designers and architects to the language and craft of traditional Japanese artisans.

Their focus to re-value traditional craft is inspiring. Through contemporary projects they breathe new life into ancient techniques. The techniques include lacquer ware (urushi) bamboo craft (take zaiku), and marquetry (yosegi). It is one thing to see images of this work and another to experience it personally and directly. The intricacy and detail took my breath away, and you could feel the care of the artisan.

The visit gave me great insight as I could experience many samples of each craft in the one place..
I was able to see the crossovers between the crafts, patterns and techniques.

Many of the patterns recur throughout traditional crafts, but are realised in different materials in different forms, scales and importantly for different uses. Suzuki and I spoke in detail about the patterns; of interest were:

  • Kasane-Kikko-ni-Wa (Kasane = repeated: Kikko = carapace of a tortoise: ni = and: Wa = ring)
  • Asanoha (Asa = hemp: no = of: ha = leaf)
  • Kagome (Kago = basket: me = eye or hole) and;
  • Ajiro (herringbone like basket weave pattern used in traditional ceilings).

These patterns are of special interest to my research as they resonate through my practice and importantly they occur in many of the Japanese traditional crafts, as well as in the other cultures I am visiting along the Silk Road. (Detailed drawings of each pattern to come!)

I can’t wait to visit Beppu, Oita Prefecture, to meet with Shigeomi Ohashi; an amazing bamboo artist who has completed many projects with Ubushina.


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