All posts by UrushiBlogEnglish

Conditions for artists to be able to keep selling their work

“What are the conditions for artists to be able to keep selling their work?”
We asked this question to an art galllery representative at a department store.
“Let me see. I suppose one thing is to keep changing.”

It is difficult to survive for a long period in the world of art, and without a doubt, the market view will have changed considerably in ten years’ time.
It is common for new artists to emerge, and for artists who were popular in a certain age to disappear.

However, among these, there are artists who retain their popularity.
What is the difference between those who disappear and those who survive?
We wanted to ask the opinion of a seller.
After saying that this is to “keep changing”, they continued as follows.
“Those artists who survive are those who, while retaining their specific impression, are able to make you believe that they are exhibiting something different from before”.

In other words, while the overall impression must be something specific to that person, there must be a new challenge taking them beyond what they did before.
Without this, “the customer will just think that ‘I have this already. In that case, I will just take the smallest one’”. In this way, they will not embrace the range of the collection.

Recently, I have been aware of the activities of artists approaching their 40s who are continuing to grow long-term, and thinking about what kind of activities they are involved in.
It is very important, therefore, to “keep changing while valuing the impression of your work”.
For example, despite the fact that Haruki Murakami’s novels exhibit a different view of the world each time, there is a mysterious feeling of fulfillment after reading it that you have “read Haruki Murakami”.
There is the same kind of thing in music for bands that last a long time.
This is required for artists as well, and it is important to renew that exciting “edge” every time.

Then, if the artist’s activities can be split into intervals of 20 years, that is into the new period, middle period, and mature period, these can be thought of as the transitional periods.

If there are collectors who want to support the age of the young newcomer, they can grow along with them, but this differs a little in regard to support for artists in their middle period, and mature period.
To a certain extent, influence and name value are important standards for the distribution of works.
For living national treasures, there is not the feeling of “Do your best! I am supporting you so I will buy this product!”

From now, I will be moving from my young period to the middle period.
For this reason, I want to challenge many things,and one of these concerns my overseas approach.

Lacquer art conceals many important elements that will raise its profile, and I will carry out activities to maximize this.

In my global activities as well, I think I have been sucessful in both establishing a Yasuhiro Arai style, and nurturing an artistisc sense in which I am continually changing from what I have done before.

To stop here and produce stable products is comfortable and gives you a sense of reassurance but there is no future in such production activities.
The period where I was not so popular was much longer, so I will not take the current period for granted, and, as I feel ready to pick myself up again and again, I just want to take myself further and further.

Tools to link to① Lacquer brush


The tools used in lacquer art are both beautiful and unique.
Currently, the tools for creating lacquer productions, and the production of lacquer materials is in a critical state.
There are no, or very few, successors, and there is the issue of aging among current proponents.
I would like to introduce you to the charm of lacquer-related tools and explain the current situation under the heading “Tools to link to”.
I would like to spread woed about lacquer art tools just a little more, and hope that some successors appear in the near future.
If I had another lifetime, I would learn the trade, but we only have one life.
My job is to use those tools and communicate to a large number of people the charm of lacquer.

Lacquer brush
The lacquer brush is unique.
It is unique because the brush section actually uses
Human hair
.
There are some made out particularly of female hair as well!

Further,
when the hair starts to decrease or become disjointed,
you can cut if off and keep using the brush.


The brush that was first long..

becomes shorter as you cut it.

Even when it is this short, you can continue to use it.
This kind of strage brush can surely only be found in Japan, right?

I am very pleased that
for the brush, there are
successors!

In Tokyo, there are the two brush stores of
“Seikichi” and “Tanaka Hake store”.
Both of them are curerently training with young
successors!
The female trainee in Tanaka Hake is currently publishing a production blog.
A link is included below.
Blog “Fox tool box”
http://blog.goo.ne.jp/sabujii5555
We hope that you will take a chance to read the blog,
and feel a passion for brsh production and
tool creation1

Three things you must never do when handling lacquerware

Many people have an image of lacquerware as being difficult to handle.
Certainly, its surface may appear weak compared to that of earthenware, porcelain, or glass.

However, many people who make it feel “it is more durable than I thought”.
If you use it correctly, it will last for multiple generations.
I shall explain things you must never do if you want to use good things for a long time.


Never use a knife and fork with lacquerware!
You will realise this if you think about it for a while, but if you scrape a fork or knife on the lacquer coating, you may scratch it.
Previously, I heard of a craftsmen lending the lacquerware they had created themselves for a planned collaboration with a restaurant, and it coming back heavily scratched.
I feel a tightness in my chest when imagining the feelings of that poor person.
I think that the most common pattern of lacquerware being used with a fork is in the case of Japanese confectionery.
Sweet bean jelly looks really enticing on a small lacquer plate, does it not? At this time, they often provide a stiff fork.
There is also an issue of ice cream in a lacquerware small bowl. Just thinking about it makes me lick my lips. Vanilla ice cream in a zhu bowl. How nice!
The tendency at this time is to use a hard metal spoon.
A wooden confectionery cutter and spoon needs to be prepared, and this is required in order to use it for a long time without damaging the lacquerware.


Never expose it to direct sunlight
Lacquer is an excellent coating. To explain just how excellent it is, once the lacquer is hardened, it will not melt however strong the acid is that you apply to it.
I do not believe there is any substance in the world that can melt lacquer once it is hardened.
However, as it is natural sap, it tries to return to its natural form. It is broken down by ultraviolet rays.
As this decomposition is over several years or several decades, the object itself will not disappear.
We often see old lacquerware where the gloss has been removed due to the impact of ultraviolet rays.
This tends to be whitish, so it is not good to keep it in areas where there is strong sunlight.
Have you ever seen outdoor temples and shrines where the vermilion and black lacquer has become whitish, and the gloss is disappearing.
At this time, the lacquer would need to be reapplied, and periodic reapplication is common.
I do not believe that crockery would normally be left outside, as long as you pay attention to the storage area, you’ll be able to enjoy lacquer with a rich gloss.

3 
Refrigerators and microwave ovens
Previously, we often heard of wooden plates cracking when they were left in the refrigerator.
Whereas it is true that temperature inside a refrigerator is low, it also has low humidity.
In many cases, the bodies of the lacquerware are made of wood. This would will crack if stress is applied.
Inside a microwave oven as well, moisture contained in the lacquerware causes a reaction and it may crack. As this may also cause discoloration of the pigment, avoid using it in a microwave oven. If you write better here than
It is also said that the use of dishwashers may be harmful. As warmair is applied during the drying stage, this may not be suitable for lacquerware.

If you follow instructions regarding the three items above, you will be able to use the lacquerware for a long period of time.
Treat the beautiful lacquerware carefully, and you will be able to pass the true Japanese spirit of treating things well along with the dishes to future generations.

About the product – Makie Tortoiseshell Mother-of-Pearl Jewelry Box “Road of Light”

This was exhibited in the 59th Japan Traditional Crafts Exhibition.
The “Road of Light” product has become a breakout product for me.
Fortunately, it received the new face award at the Japan Crafts Exhibition.
It is also a product that has led me to the discovery of my own style.
Light released from a single light source spreads out, and this links to life itself.
That was the image with which I produced this work.
Therefore, items designed around a flower or a bird appear within the image of light, and express the fact that light is the source of life.

Put another way, this does not only mean that light is a blessing from nature, but rather that it is also a symbol of civilization for the modern age.
With the invention of blue LED, the color of the town as a whole has drastically changed.
The urban light is also attractive.
The “Road of light” has an awareness of an urban image.
It is the molding that expresses this.
The shape of the multi-sided box has an awareness of the sense of speed found in cities and the molded beauty of linked buildings.
I feel that placing the contrasting images of natural light and urban light within one product gives power to the product with its striking Makie gold and jet black colors.

Furthermore, the line splitting the gold and black is inlaid with tortoiseshell (like the shell of a tortoise), but I feel that this is a softer brown neutral color.
There are complex techniques incorporated within the simple impression, and these kinds of products that I would hesitate to create now would have been made by me during my 20s.

During that time, I was causing a lot of problems for my parents, so around that time I gave up using a single lacquer.
It was when I decided to make this product my last one, and continue to produce while working, that I received this award, immediately after making my application for WEB vocational training school.
I remember that this work was made during a really complex time for me. 

The box is divided into two levels and has leather on the inside.

 

Encounter with Urushi

I was born into the home of an ordinary business person.

My grandfather was a farmer, and my father worked for NTT.

I am often asked “Has your family been Makieshi (gold lacquer experts) for generations?”, but my upbringing had no relationship whatsoever with urushi or art.

My first encounter with urushi was at high school.

I had just entered Kibikogen Gakuen High School, a full-board high school in Okayama Prefecture.

The high school had normal classes, but the courses were divided in a distinctive way, and the framework was such that we were able to choose the fields that we were most interested in

I chose the “Arts & crafts course”.

There were other courses that looked quite interesting, such as ”ceramics” and “architecture”, but I selected the “Arts & crafts course”.

I do not actually remember why I chose the “Arts & crafts course”.

Whereas the ceramics course was very popular, the “Arts & crafts course” had a total of three people, including myself and two girls of the same age.

What I still remember to this day are the vibrant Makie, with colored urushi powder on a black urushi background and the mother of pearl blue light decorated in the course room. There were also many volumes of picture books related to urushi in the library.

I remember my impression of it being pure, simple, and beautiful.

In this way, as a first year high school student my interest drifted towards urushi, and in the second year I chose the “Arts & crafts course” that focused on urushi.

That was where I met my first real teacher in life.

I will save the story of that teacher for another time.

Cultivation and Collection of Urushi

“Do you know how urushi is collected?”

For those who don’t know much about urushi I will start explaining what it is.

Urushi is sap that is harvested from urushi (or lacquer) trees. 

The works of art that are made using this sap are called lacquer ware.

The collecting method of the sap is called lacquer scraping and as its name suggests it is done by scraping the trees. 

Due to the fact that it’s a traditional technique, specialized tools and dexterity will be required.


You scrape the urushi tree trunk like the picture above.