A look inside the studio of Japanese woodworker Hiroyuki Sugawara in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture.

Feature on Japanese Woodworker Hiroyuki Sugawara

About Hiroyuki Sugawara

Hiroyuki Sugawara creates wooden tools for daily life by hand, working out of his workshop in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, Japan. Sugawara’s background is in product design, later studying woodwork at Takumi Juku, where he learnt to get hands on with wood and manipulate it into simple everyday forms.

In 2005 he opened up his own studio named ‘greenlight’, where he started to create shapes that are both functional and that have warmth when handled.

Introduction

Hiroyuki Sugawara has become one of the most popular woodworkers in our store. I originally contacted Hiroyuki five years ago, I was inspired by his unique approach to crafting functional objects from wood. Later I heard about his slogan “Wooden Tools for Daily Life”, which he used in a few exhibitions that he held in Japan, I think this really summarises his work and offers an insight in to his thinking as a craftsman.

So after a long time of representing Mr Sugawara I thought it was about time we put together a small feature on him and highlight some imagery from inside his studio. Named ‘greenlight’, his workshop is based in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, Japan. His focus on creating simple everyday forms from woods such as maple and cherry has been with him since day one, each being crafted by using simple hand tools which, as one can imagine, takes a lot of time, patience and skill.

In his small workshop he cuts the blanks by selecting each piece of wood carefully, he then draws out the basic outline on the sheets of wood to get the most out of the material. What’s most obvious is the humble nature of the pieces, the design is very subtle and he uses the textures in the wood to create unique works of functional art. I hope you like these images and will read the captions under each, you can find forks, and spoons, and even some lacquered dishes and trays in the shop.

Hiroyuki Sugawara has marked out the different sections of wood with
Hiroyuki Sugawara has marked out the different sections of wood with “S” and “F”, standing for “Fork” and “Spoon”.
Next he draws out the template for the spoons, making sure that he makes the most out of the wood.
Next he draws out the template for the spoons, making sure there’s no wastage.
The finished templates drawn out of the wood, these will be cut out.
Here Hiroyuki Sugawara cuts the desired shape for a spoon.Fork blanks that will later be hand shaped by Hiroyuki Sugawara
Here he cuts out the blanks using a saw, although rough they will be finished using hand tools.
Here he starts to shape the head of a fork, using a sharp blade to perfect the form.
Here he starts to shape the head of a fork, using a sharp blade to perfect the form.
Hiroyuki uses a chisel to shave out the mouth of the spoon, focusing on both the function and aesthetic of the finished piece.
Hiroyuki uses a chisel to shave out the mouth of the spoon, focusing on both the function and aesthetic of the finished piece.
Fork blanks handmade by Hiroyuki Sugawara.Spoon blanks which are yet to have been finished by Hiroyuki Sugawara.
Spoon and fork blanks which are yet to have been finished by Hiroyuki Sugawara.
Hiroyuki puts the fork on a vice, making it easier to manipulate the wood and shave off any excess.
Hiroyuki puts the fork on a vice, making it easier to manipulate the wood and shave off any excess.
He uses a sharp bladed tool to thin out the handle and create the desired shape.
He uses a sharp bladed tool to thin out the handle and create the desired shape.
Up-close, the sharp bladed tool that he uses to shave the wood off.
Up-close, the sharp bladed tool that he uses to shave the wood off.
He adds the lacquer to the fork, it protects the wood and brings out all the surface marks.
He adds the lacquer to the fork, it protects the wood and brings out all the surface marks.
A selection of lumber in Hiroyuki Sugawara's studio
A fork that's waiting to be cut.
He cuts around using a badnsaw where he has drawn on the wood, making sure he is as economical as possible.
He cuts around using a badnsaw where he has drawn on the wood, making sure he is as economical as possible.
Hiroyuki Sugawara in his workshop, shaping a fork in to the desired shape.
He paints the lacquer on to the spoons, slowly building up the layers and letting them dry naturally.
He paints the lacquer on to the spoons, slowly building up the layers and letting them dry naturally.
A black lacquer spoon, the shine will slowly dull and become a lovely matte shade of black.
A black lacquer spoon, the shine will slowly dull and become a lovely matte shade of black.
Excess lacquer on the black spoon by Hiroyuki Sugawara.
A look inside Hiroyuki Sugawara's studio.
A look inside Hiroyuki Sugawara’s studio.
Cherry Forks and Oak Spoons, all of which can be found in OEN Shop.
Cherry Forks and Oak Spoons, all of which can be found in OEN Shop.
A selection of lacquer cutlery and tableware, like the small black spoon and shizuka plate.
A selection of lacquer cutlery and tableware, such as the black lacquer teaspoon and shizuka plate.
The popular black and white lacquer spoons, both can be found in the shop.
The popular black and white lacquer spoons, both can be found in the shop.