“Urushi Craftsman” by Hirokazu Kishida


I find it amusing how little pieces of information seem to trickle in to place. This exact thing happened to me during the week. I watched a documentary piece titled Living National Treasures of Japan filmed by National Geographic in around 1980. A brilliant film that really gets to the core of Japanese philosophy, on the plus side we’re also introduced to a number of crafts such as pottery, metalworking, and puppet making (which is quite extraordinary by the way). This made me think about those who have achieved the highest award in the Japanese arts, it’s certainly quite something to hear the stories individually and get a glimpse in to their world, even if the documentary is about 30 years old it’s still relevant today.

Some people think that due to mass-production a lot of the crafts will soon be extinct, but craftsmen like these “Living National Treasures” are in charge of passing on the country’s artistic heritage to future generations. That’s one of the reasons I find myself looking at Japan for craft and creative inspiration, they seem to have a strong appreciation for this sector and many hold it dearly, so it’s quite natural to see work from this part of the world pop-up on the site. Today I spotted this short film by Kyoto born filmmaker Hirokazu Kishida. This shows the working processes of the lacquer craftsmen that create for Yamada Heiando, a tableware and accessories company founded in 1919. Hirokazu Kishida films inside each makers workshop, offering their thoughts on the craft as they carve the wood on the lathe or coat the vessels with lacquer.

I find lacquerware production extremely fascinating, the way that all the materials are taken from natural sources, also how each layer is applied with absolute precision. It’s mind boggling how such a craft has lasted so many centuries, now adapting to modern day living and contemporary scenarios in the home. Like those that are available in our own shop for example. Obviously we’ll make technological advances in all areas of life, but a craft like this has to be expressed only by human hand otherwise it just won’t have the same charm and character. Watch on below and enjoy watching these masters at work.



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