After the article that I put together late last week featuring artists and sculptures Alma Allen, Ani Kasten & Adam Silverman, I thought I would showcase another video produced by the same Japanese company but on a slightly different wavelength. This particular video has no English speaking, or English subtitles for that matter, but it has some fantastic shots of lacquer craftsman Isamu Odashima making and producing.
After searching around the web for quite some time I was surprised to find a generous amount of information on Isamu and the work that he undertakes. Usually it’s hard to find any information on these hidden individuals, “the unknown craftsman” some might call them, it’s especially hard when you know little Japanese or little of the persons language. A lot of the time you can find it on the web but you have to do a lot of translating.
This video showcases Kenji Suzuki, who’s collecting lacquer from the trees at the start and is someone I’ve highlighted before, and Isamu Odashima who’s making the bowls out of wood and applying lacquer with the help of craftsman Namiko Yamazaki. Two things that struck me when watching through these was the ridiculous amount of skill when making the bowls, making them that thin out of wood is a real art and it’s great to see the piece spinning on a pottery wheel whilst Mr Odashima is sanding it down. In fact, it’s that good it almost looks like it has been made out of clay. Secondly, the way they apply the lacquer is extremely therapeutic to watch, so I’m positive it feels quite natural in person. I guess when you’ve been doing it aslong as these individuals it’s sort of like poetry and it becomes second nature.
Today will be the first day that we get hold of some lacquer products in the shop, and I’ll be interested to see the progression in these pieces as I’ve been reading about the care methods for lacquerware. Since the wood is always growing the form changes depending on its environment, as you can imagine very dry locations are not good for them, but if you care for an item properly it can last hundreds of years and have barely any deterioration in its finish even after decades of use.
I hope you enjoy this small introduction into urushi as a material and the process of making a piece of lacquerware. This is a craft that has a lot of historical value which spans back thousands of years, but it’s also being represented in modern ways and has been brought forward as something timeless but authentic. Watch on below.