Exploring the excellences: a birdeye view on Kyoto artisans

Written by Domenico Di Maio

Week 41

Among all the production approaches that deviate from the well-known Italian method, the Japanese is the most prolific and socially intriguing.
In the continent where the sun rises, Kaizen or “continuous improvement” is a key element behind each production activity. It is a cultural tradition that since World War Two has been strongly implemented across all Japanese businesses. Kaizen, focuses on making small continuous improvements across all functions, systems and processes within an enterprise, by aiming to eliminate waste. It also helps impart a positive effect on construction workflow.
GO ON is not just a motto that signifies going forward and improving. Reflecting upon the above concept, it is also rooted in the project of Ryo Kagami – a celebration of Japanese craftsmanship through a collaboration with Kyoto’s best artisans. These studios create exceptional art and craft pieces that have been celebrated on the international design stage.

Image © GO ON

Ryo has fashioned a map of all the craftsmen, operating out of Kyoto, who deserve to be closely charted:

The ultimate testament to superior-quality fabric production for fashion and luxury interiors. Hoshoo has a long history: It was founded in 1688 and is well known for its technical competence in three-dimensional weaving and for applying richly textured Nishijin weaving to contemporary design. Nishijin is a special yarn dyeing and weaving technique developed over 1,200 years ago that is used for garments such as kimonos.

Kaikado is now a worldwide success story.
It might seem strange, but these tea caddies posses special characteristics that allow for excellent air tightness, thus protecting tea leaves from humidity whilst helping them to maintain their scent. With the hand-made materials and methods that comprise Kaikado’s selection of caddies, its clear that commercialism falls by the wayside in favour of cultural convention.
Since 1875, through its products, Kaikado exemplifies that carrying on tradition is of principal importance.

The Matsubayashi family’s labours commenced 15 generations ago, when Tosaku gifted creations from his own workshop to nobles, warrior rulers and tea masters.
We are speaking about pottery and tea bowls that, hand modelled individually, possess all the properties that epitomise Japanese culture; particularly, that tea consumption can be understood as an act of love, which commences with the quality of the drinking vessel.

Kohchosai Kosuga
Throughout his life, Kocho Ueda was able to tap into Japan’s artistic zenith. His wall is full of distinguished awards and his paintings are now part of the collections of Nishihongan-ji temple and Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts. The Kohchosai Kosuga Company was founded by his genius, and in honour of his talent for the arts and creative sensitivity, has been combining classic and modern techniques to propose new styles of bamboo craft since 1898.

“Kanaami” is the Japanese art of braiding wires to create handmade kitchen and ceremonial utensils. It has existed in Kyoto for over 1000 years. At Kanaami-Tsuji the past is cherished, and ancient teachings and experiences have been used to fashion objects that are indispensible for contemporary life.

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Nakagawa Mokkougei Hirakoubou
Suji Nakagawa operates alone. Inside his world, composed of wood and art, he works using traditional Japanese techniques that were studied and learnt under his father. Suji creates works and functional objects of refined design using ashardwood, softwood or exotic wood. He uses a series of methods, of which the most practiced is the Japanese traditional wooden pail technique.

Masahiro Inoue
Masahiro Inoue is an experienced craftsman in the creation of Kakejiku or more commonly kakemonos: scroll paintings mounted on a flexible fabric surface – silk in most cases – so that they can be rolled up and pictures or calligraphy will be perfectly preserved. Many of Inoue’s works have been exhibited in top art museums, including the Municipal Museum of Art in Kyoto.

With “shoji” we refer to the sliding panels or room dividers typically found in Japanese homes. They consist of translucent paper over a frame of wood, which holds together a lattice of wood or bamboo, and help contribute to the aesthetic and functional properties of space. Kamisoe creates unique designs, refining colours and patterns, to meet the needs of contemporary life.

Keikou Nishimura
For three generations, the company founded by Master Keikou Nishimura has specialized in producing traditional Japanese lacquerware, particularly implements for the tea ceremony.
The recipe is very simple: a wide range of materials typical of the region and profound application of artisanal techniques from Kyoto. The range of elegant utensils has been designed for durability and to satisfy modern tastes.

Image © GO ON