OEN Issue 2 – A Visit to Woodworker Shuji Nakagawa’s Studio

With hundreds of years of tradition comes hundreds of years of history to uphold. No pressure then. It takes a special maker to not only take a craft by the scruff of the neck, but to run with it and adapt in a contemporary way; to translate the work for a new audience while holding on to the techniques that are not only representative of the craft as a whole, but also pay homage to the craftsmen that came before.

Nakagawa Mokkougei is best known for producing traditional Japanese buckets called ‘ki-oke’. These are made by joining slats of cypress or pine wood together and holding them in place with well-positioned metal rings. The process itself dates back over 700 years and has gone through a series of changes as a functional object. Today, these buckets are used as drink coolers and for interior decoration, but during the Edo period they were mainly used for storing rice and miso.

There are two Nakagawa studios in Japan, one in Kyoto and another near Lake Biwa in Shiga. The Kyoto studio is run by Kiyotsugu Nakagawa …

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