A Look Inside Yusuke Tazawa's Studio in Ebina, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Feature on Japanese Woodworker Yusuke Tazawa

About Yusuke Tazawa

Revolving around nature most of his life, Japanese maker Yusuke Tazawa decided to convey the importance of the forest through his woodworking skills.

Yusuke produces wooden utensils, plates, vessels and furniture at his studio Think!Forest in Ebina, Kanagawa Prefecture.

When designing these goods he looks to source inspiration from old culture and tools in Japan.

Photography: Tatsuji Nagase

Introduction

Since a child Yusuke Tazawa has always been inspired by crafts and craftsmanship in general, so as a student he decided to specialise in forest science and engineering. After working in conservation for a number of years he wanted to convey the importance of the woodland through his woodworking skills. His workshop currently resides in Ebina, Kanagawa Prefecture where he makes a selection of furniture, trays, vessels and cutlery from a variety of woods.

His skill not only lies in his unique ability to manipulate wood in an accurate way, he also brings out the beauty and character in the wood using simple hand tools and natural surface treatments, such as oils and urushi (aka lacquer). Yusuke’s keen eye for form really does set him apart and the design of all his works are contemporary with a traditional twist. He even leaves small chisel marks on the surface to highlight the touch of the maker and to honour the materials origin.

We hope that these photographs taken inside of Yusuke’s studio offer a glimpse at his processes, highlighting the production methods that he uses to make these unique objects. You can view our short Q&A with Yusuke at the bottom of the page, we also sell the Cherry and Walnut Coffee Scoop as seen being made here in the shop, enjoy.

Yusuke Tazawa on the lathe turning the walnut coffee scoop to the desired shape.
Yusuke Tazawa on the lathe turning the walnut coffee scoop to the desired shape.
He uses a number of different chisels to perfect the form.
He uses a number of different chisels to perfect the form.
A look at Yusuke Tazawa's tools and some wood stock that he's built up over time.A look at Yusuke Tazawa's tools and some wood stock that he's built up over time.
A look at Yusuke Tazawa’s tools and some wood stock that he’s built up over time.
Japanese chisels and tools, also wood blanks that have yet to be worked on.
Japanese chisels and tools, also wood blanks that have yet to be worked on.
Yusuke has made the main shape for the scoop of the spoon, this will then be sanded and perfected by hand.
Yusuke has made the main shape for the scoop of the spoon, this will then be sanded and perfected by hand.
A series of blanks in cherry and walnut, these will be used to product the handles for the spoon.
A series of blanks in cherry and walnut, these will be used to product the handles for the spoon.
Tazawa trims away the excess wood on the lathe to make sure the scoop is thin and refined, he then works on the handle.Yusuke Tazawa
Tazawa trims away the excess wood on the lathe to make sure the scoop is thin and refined, he then works on the handle.
He measures exactly the right size for the handle, referencing drawings that he's made in the past.
He measures exactly the right size for the handle, referencing drawings that he’s made in the past.
Yusuke cuts where he's drawn to get the basic flat shape of the handle.
Yusuke cuts where he’s drawn to get the basic flat shape of the handle.
Perfecting the shape of the handle by hand, making sure the character of the wood will be showing in the final object.
Perfecting the shape of the handle by hand, making sure the character of the wood will be showing in the final object.
Yusuke pays careful attention to the curve leading towards the scoop, he uses a small knife to craft this section accurately.Yusuke Tazawa
Yusuke pays careful attention to the curve leading towards the scoop, he uses a small knife to craft this section accurately.
Yusuke Tazawa
Yusuke Tazawa
Fitting the handle to the scoop, paying careful attention to how the wood meets and the positioning.Fitting the handle to the scoop, paying careful attention to how the wood meets and the positioning.
Fitting the handle to the scoop, paying careful attention to how the wood meets and the positioning.
Yusuke Tazawa
Here he uses a chisel to work around where the handle connects to the scoop, making sure it’s smooth accurate.
Yusuke carefully shapes the top of the scoop to make it thin and perfectly circular.
Yusuke carefully shapes the top of the scoop to make it thin and perfectly circular.
The finished coffee scoop, this new design minimises wood loss and is easier to hold in the hand.
The finished coffee scoop, this new design minimises wood loss and is easier to hold in the hand. The Cherry and Walnut Coffee Scoop as seen being made here are both available in the shop.

1. When did you decide to turn craft in to a career?

My old job was rewarding as a career but I did feel its limitations. I wanted to convey the importance of the forest and nature, however I only worked on the development side of things. So I decided to achieve my objective using a different approach, turning to handicraft.

I also thought my old job was too physically demanding. Between April and November it required a lot of walking in the fields, also suburban areas and woodland. So it was hard on my body and I wanted to pursue something for the long haul.

3. When designing your goods, you often source inspiration from Japanese culture such as the tea ceremony. Why does the tea ceremony inspire you?

Not only am I inspired by the tea ceremony (Chanoyu), I’m also inspired by traditional Japanese architecture (farm houses and old style tea houses). But I think it’s true that I do take some influence from Chanoyu. In my eyes Chanoyu is a condensed form of Japanese culture, the tools in the ceremony for drinking and making tea, but also the food utensils they use at the temple, gardening, architecture, flowers and other elements. It’s stripped back and simple.

5. What does a typical day look like for you at your workshop Think Forest! in Ebina, Kanagawa Prefecture?

It varies from day to day. Some days I work on the lathe turning wood, others you’ll find me painting with urushi. I make sure I sharpen a knife at least once a day. Sometimes it’s a chisel, other days it might be a plane or a graving chisel. I think this is very important.

I live in Yokohama, it takes about one hour by car from Ebina. Yokohama is a suburban area, one day I’d like to live in the country side to feel at one with nature. Then I can take a stroll in the woods every day …

7. What kind of legacy do you hope to leave?

I would like to contribute to woodworking as a whole, also preserve nature and the forest, which is the backbone of Japanese wood culture. As well as that, I’d like to pass on classic woodworking techniques to the next generation.

8. What advice do you have to other individuals that want to get in to woodworking, or any other craft for that matter?

Don’t forget that whatever’s made out of wood has the presence of the forest. It’s not from a sawmill, even wood sawn up has come from the forest if you trace its origin. Also, do not forget that it is significant to craft by one’s hand, no matter how machines and techniques develop in the future.