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An Afternoon with an Up and Coming Artisan in Nara’s Autumn Countryside

Ikura san creates very large pieces as well.

Ikura san creates very large pieces as well.

On our recent trip to Japan, we spent an amazing week in Kyoto and Nara, traversing the streets and alleys of the two famous old capital cities so rich with tradition and culture. We visited ancient shrines and temples, ate incredible food and enjoyed a few of the local beverages that go so well with them.

While there, we also spent time visiting a few of our artist friends, including Kotaro Ikura who comes from a family tradition of creating beautiful ceramics. Ikura-san’s father is a famous ceramic artist, and he could have followed that path, but he has chosen to go in a new direction, following his creative instincts, and we love what he is doing. We visited his new studio in the hills outside of Nara at their vibrant peak of autumn’s colors so revered in Japan.

His new studio is an old sake distillery full of original character and new touches Ikura-san has brought to the rustic space, which he has converted into a working space, showroom and living quarters for his family. It was quietly breathtaking inside and out. As he showed us around, Ikura-san pointed out the black coloring on the tan walls, which is caused by inhabitants of the previous owners -- the spores of the Koji cultures, vital to the making of sake. The past still lives and watches while the present continues and grows.

We will be showcasing Ikura-san’s translucent works in the months to come, but we wanted to lift the curtain a bit to give a sneak peak, and yes, maybe a tease, at what’s to come.

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A cup with Ikura's signature style translucent stripes

A cup with Ikura's signature style translucent stripes

Large bowl with beautiful light blue glaze

Large bowl with beautiful light blue glaze

Very cool traditional house!

Very cool traditional house!

Ikura san's studio space used to be Sake brewery, so its Sake culture keeps changing the wall texture. 

Ikura san's studio space used to be Sake brewery, so its Sake culture keeps changing the wall texture. 

Ishikawa Artists Shine in NYC This Month

New York City played host to several artists from Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan in September. We were in Ishikawa last year visiting Kanazawa and Yamanaka, and have met many great new artists there. We are encouraged and excited to see their work being recognized broadly.

It started with with Toshiharu Hisatsune, an artist displaying Kaga Yuzen, a style of textile craftsmanship unique to the Ishikawa region. He exhibited his Kimono and Noren (a room divider made of fabric) in Brooklyn, and he demonstrated for the audience how he dyes fabric. He told us some interesting stories about the history of Yuzen and about traditional wedding rituals in the Ishikawa area.

Then, we met Satomi Den, who is a glass artist working in Kanazawa. Satomi-san has been working on a unique method of glass-making, which was inspired by her previous study of metal work. Satomi-san had her latest show at the tatami room at Globus Washitsu. It was great to meet her and discuss her work. It was quite interesting as her work is influenced by European lace design, but its beauty still shined through in a Japanese setting.

Finally, we saw an exhibition and lecture by Toshio Ohi, who comes from a long line of great craftsmen. His father is a renowned 10th generation master Ohi Chozaemon, and Toshio-san has been developing his own style in the genre. He is a true jet-setter, coming to NYC twice this month in between busy days as an artist, lecturer, jury, tea master, and teacher in Japan. His energetic and magnetic lecture was rich with knowledge in Japanese history, culture, and traditional tea ceremony background. We really enjoyed his thoughts and global perspective.

Meanwhile, we have been talking to a lacquerware artisan from Ishikawa, who has a fascinating philosophy, which is reflected in his life and work. He inspires us everytime we communicate. We are looking forward to showing his work in the future.

We sense Ishikawa’s geographical and political position in history has a strong effect in their psyche. As Ohi-san said, these encounters with people is a treasure in life. It is a pleasure getting to know these Ishikawa artisans. They keep inspiring us greatly.

Kaga yuzen wedding noren by Toshiharu Hisatsune

Kaga yuzen wedding noren by Toshiharu Hisatsune

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Glass work by Satomi Den

Glass work by Satomi Den

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Toshio Ohi talks at exhibition opening

Toshio Ohi talks at exhibition opening

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