Jump to content

Japanese metalwork references


Jim Kelso

Recommended Posts

I wanted to start this thread a couple of weeks ago but life intervened. Ford and others made a reference to The Design and Creation of Jewelry by Robert Von Neumann, one of the few books in English with fairly accurate information on Japanese techniques. I loved this book early on as well and I thought a focused thread on materials in English could be useful.

 

Another of my favorites is Silverwork and Jewellery by H. Wilson and Unno Bisei (Pub. Pitman). As far as I know this is the only book from that period(1902) where the text was revised and approved by an actual Japanese mastersmith. Quoting H. Wilson: "I have had the priviledge of being instructed by Unno Bisei of the Tokyo Fine Art College, and the following chapters are based on notes made from his demonstrations. They have in addition been entirely revised by Professor Unno himself. The illustrations are from his own diagrams."

 

Sadly, there are precious few illustrations, but they are quite nicely done.

 

Unno Bisei was the son of the consummate metal artist Unno Moritoshi and studied with the great Unno Shomin. Credentials don't get much better than that. Sadly as well, there are few photos of his work. I'll post one from Kagedo Gallery. Two weeks ago I saw a fantastic pair of vases in New York at the display of Brian Harkins with one of the finest snowy winter scenes I have seen in silver and shibuichi. Unfortunately, I didn't heve my camera :rolleyes:

 

This book is available from the usual scources(Amazon, Alibris, etc.) Make sure you get the one with Unno Bisei material. There have been several reprints.

post-4-1176506829.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 58
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Hi Jim,

 

Thanks for the reference. I'm afraid that I'm a chronic book collector, and I just might have to get a fix from this book.

 

I just picked up a book this week online from the Museum of Fine arts in Boston by Joe Earl called Lethal Elegance, The Art of Samurai Sword Fittings, MFA publications, 1994. The MFA also has a fantastic collection of high-quality tsubas, and most are photographed and available for viewing online. Well worth a look.

 

Some folks out there might be aware of it. The photographs alone make it worh purchasing.

 

Phil

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aloha Jim,

 

BTW, subject of books spurred me to look for long lost boxes of relavent literature...success. Found trove of Bushell's, Reikichi, old NKS (now INS) study journals and many museum exhibition publications. Maybe this purchase can help answer questions from long ago. (It's coming back slowly.) :rolleyes:

 

mahalo

Karl

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi,

I just received the book that Ford mentioned "KINKO DENTO GIHO" (Traditional Soft-Metal worker's Techniques) by KATORI Masahiko, IO Toshio and IBUSE Keisuke yesterday from Amazon Japan. It is an excellent book. It covers many types of metal work such as lost-wax casting, sand casting, raising a bowl and teapot, chasing, inlay plus other techniques. It shows the tools used for each technique. The illustrations are all small and in black and white and the book is in Japanese but it does show everything step by step. It was $30.00 (however, shipping was $30.00). I just ordered "Silverwork and Jewellery" by H. Wilson and Unno Bise with the Japanese section. Jim, thanks for the information.

Dick

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I want to make sure I don't mislead anyone in to thinking that Silverwork & Jewellery is an extensive treatise. It's not. It's main value is in that the information it does contain is so direct and accurate. It does contain some information on alloying shibuichi to obtain the "nashiji" mentioned elsewhere that was extremely useful to me at the time.

 

This forum now contains more accurate information that any other source I know.

 

These books will always be friends.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest ford hallam

Just over 100 years ago Unno Bisei demonstrated Classical Japanese metalwork technique to English craftsmen in London. Last year in November I returned the favour. ;)

 

Here's a photo showing me working and demonstrating traditional technique to a Japanese audience in a small museum in Katsuyama, Okayama.

I was kept busy like this for nearly a month. :rolleyes:

The gentleman on the far left is my teacher, Izumi Koshiro Sensei. The exhibition was a celebration of our long and unique relationship. As you can imagine, it was a very special event of me. ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Ford,

 

Pardon my ignorance, but I am curious about the high-end metalwork arts scene in Japan. A am aware that there are a considerable number of top-quality netsuke carvers, but is there a large base of artists actively practicing quality original metalwork, tsuba, etc.? I know there are a lot of people producing knock-offs, or castings, but I am curious about the contemporary masters.

 

If they are on-line, could you suggest a few websites that I/we might have a look at?

 

Thanks, Phil

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest ford hallam

hello Phil,

 

this link will take you to the Japanese Association of traditional crafts web-site. There is quite a lot of information there regarding technique as well as images of contemporary metal artworks. No tsuba though! :rolleyes:

 

There are a handful of contemporary makers of tsuba, I've not seen any other sword related decorative fittings though. The Society for the Preservation of Japanese Art Swords ( NBTHK ) holds an annual competition to rank sword-smiths. polishers and associated artisans/artists. In the chokin section ( metal carving , inlay etc. ) there are usually about 30 entries. One or two are termed Mukansa, these are people who have consistently won 1st, 2nd or 3rd and are now judged to be above contest level. Jim visited one of these men, Mr Masaichi Sakai some years ago, Jim?..... I'll attach some images of his work. Sorry about the quality, they're photos from a catalogue.

 

There are 3 prize winning levels and after that the remainder are merely ranked numerically according to whatever qualities the judges are looking for. These are described as nyusen, this simply indicates that they were accepted. Most of these entrants make one tsuba a year and are hobbyists.

 

There are a couple of modern tsuba makers on the web who are operating out of Japan but I don't regard them as representative of the best of contemporary work.

 

I hope this sheds some light on the situation.

 

cheers, Ford

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The tsuba making scene does seem in decline. Toshimasa(Masaichi Sakai) is now 84 and a little less active each year. Haven't seen anyone coming on, although I'm not much up on those activities. It's such a tradition oriented field, unlike the netsuke scene which has developed a contemporary faction.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest ford hallam

I should have indicated when these pieces were made. The kozuka with the fish was made in 1983. I think that it's the best piece I've seen of his. ;) He made it when he was 60, there might be hope for me then :rolleyes: .

the tsuba with the little bird was made in 1988 and it's making ( over 9 months or so ) was also the subject of a 30 min documentary that was originally shown on Japanese TV. The kozuka with the kingfisher was made in 1990. Interestingly, the body of the little fella is actually mother of pearl. :D

 

cheers, Ford ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Ford,

 

You would think that with the strong continuing tradition in sword-making that the associated arts would follow, but perhaps sword fittings haven't achieved the same mystique in the public eye as the blades themselves. Personally, although I appreciate what goes into forging a laminated blade, I find the fittings more interesting.

 

Phil

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest ford hallam

Hi Phil,

 

I think the decline in sword fitting production is due to a number of factors, I've written an overview of the evolution of the tradition which addresses this. It'll be on my site, shortly! :)

 

There are still the odd ( very ) individuals who are trying to keep things alive though, here's a link to some work of one such wierdo :D .

cheers, Ford

 

p.s. The wire inlay tutorial just needs to have all the images edited now, there are quite a few. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very nice!!

 

I like to see steel treated as a precious metal. It is a wonderful material, and very much under-appreciated.

 

I assume you are working mostly with mild steel? Have you ever worked with old (i.e. 19th century) wrought iron? Compared to mild steel, is like the difference between fine silver and sterling. It has a beautiful softness, and grain.

 

Phil

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aloha

 

With respect to the beginnings of this thread, may I suggest these other readings?

For something a little different in traditional ironwork:

1) Japanese Cabinetry - David Jackson & Dane Owen;

2) Traditional Japanese Furniture - Kazuko Koizumi;

3) Tansu - Ty & Kiyoko Heinekin;

4) Japanese Antique Chests - Tokyo Furniture Museum

The first one is recent, a picture book with little technical info, but good closeups. The other two have small technical sections and so-so pictures, so try to borrow them. The last is a museum publication with decent pics and info on wood, metal and lacquer techniques.

 

A little off topic, but check out Understanding Wood Finishing by Bob Flexner. The best book ever. Just look at the reviews on Amazon. Cheap! :)

 

mahalo

Karl

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Jim,

Another very nice book on Japanese art is "Collecting Japanese Antiques" by Alistair Seton. This is a very general book but covers almost every aspect of Japanese art with beautiful large format color pictures. The very best pieces. You can find it at amazon.com for $31.00.

Dick

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hallo,

for the netsuke carvers and metal bashers I would recommend:

 

Kagamibuta - Mirrors of Japanese Life and Legend

By Eijer, D.

Leiden, 1994.

 

It has almost 100 pages. And so far as I know it is the only monograph on this subject. It has beautiful illustrations. The author had also given a small chapter on technique, but it is the view of an art scientist on craft.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest ford hallam

Hi Karl,

 

I have the book on kagamibuta you mention and have very mixed feeling about it. It is a good presentation of the subject but I have serious reservations on the technical section. I get the impression you have some doubts on that aspect too. When I first received my copy I had intended to write a review on it, particularly with reference to my own experience and expertise in the field of Japanese metalwork. Ultimately though, I didnt, mainly because I felt that the technical section was so flawed and so many assumptions were then based on these errors that it seemed a pointless task.

 

just my point of view,

cheers, Ford ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Karl,

 

I have the book on kagamibuta you mention and have very mixed feeling about it. It is a good presentation of the subject but I have serious reservations on the technical section. I get the impression you have some doubts on that aspect too. When I first received my copy I had intended to write a review on it, particularly with reference to my own experience and expertise in the field of Japanese metalwork. Ultimately though, I didnt, mainly because I felt that the technical section was so flawed and so many assumptions were then based on these errors that it seemed a pointless task.

 

just my point of view,

cheers, Ford B)

Hallo Ford,

 

I totally agree with your opinion. On the other hand even bad technical descriptions are hard to find. But the pictures in that volume are very good. Most art scientists have no idea how thing are made or they use complex methods like X-ray etc. and even with this they only guess. :)

 

One of the best summerys of technical matters is

 

Japan-Its History Arts and Literature

Vo. 7 (a lot of other references mislead the reader to vol.3 but metalwork section is in vol.7)

by Captain F. Brinkley

London 1904

 

There are 8 volumes concerning almost every aspect of japanese Art history known in the late 19th century.

 

By the way, Brinkley mentioned "togidashi zogan" and had given a short describtion of that method. I was a bit confused about it. For my it seems to be a mixture of "nunome zogan" (I enjoyed your exellend tutorial) and "mokume"- like fusing technique.

Specimen for that technique can be seen in Joly`Red Cross Cataloge. But I can hardly imagine that these results are produced with the technique described in Brinkleys book. ;)

 

Best regards

Karl

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.


×
×
  • Create New...