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OPEN YOUR SIGHTE 2019.2.17-24

Meet Soryu-gama, Itohen Universe and Yozan Miura at ''DESIGN WEEK KYOTO'' this month (Feb. 17-24). A number of venues of crafting and production will be opened throughout the city and anyone is welcome to watch, learn and enjoy talking with the craftspeople in their studio. DESIGN WEEK KYOTO will generate innovative interactions to empower creativity in Kyoto. Advance booking is necessary to visit the sites. Visit their website for more information: www.designweek-kyoto.com


As the capital and seat of the Imperial Court for over 1,000 years, Kyoto is home to a wide variety of exquisite craftsmanship. Though often described as ''traditional crafts,'' these are not just the products of tradition but are still growing and evolving today. This month, KVG meets craftspeople who have inherited these craft traditions from their predecessors and are striving to develop new products and designs that will be passed forward to future generations, and to the rest of the world.



Yozan Miura has always been interested in history and historical assets since he was a young boy. Naturally, he always loved to visit temples and shrines. Even as he started his career as an office worker, Yozan continued visiting historical places. Eventually, his longing to be a Buddhist sculptor grew and filled his heart.

Thus, it was without regret that he said goodbye to his stable life as an office worker and began his training to become a Buddhist sculptor under the great master, Seizan Watanabe. After spending 13 years learning and working hard every day under his master, Yozan finally became independent and opened his own studio in 2012.

Today, his main work as a sculptor is to create new Buddhist sculptures from scratch, to restore time-honored but deteriorating works, and to teach Buddhist sculpture skills at his workshop.

''I'm not trying to make a Buddhist sculpture from my own interpretation - Buddhist sculptures are not where I show off my original creativity. To me, a Buddhist sculpture should be an existence which looks familiar and approachable to everyone. Of course, I admire great Buddhist sculptors of the past, such as Unkei and Kaikei from the Kamakura period (12th-13th century), however, I'm not so interested in who made the sculpture, but how their work is accepted by the people,'' Yozan says.

Yozan's novel ''Floating Buddha''

Curiously enough, though his job (and his attire, too!) are completely traditional and historical, Yozan recently produced a novel Buddhist sculpture item. ''I dreamed of producing a 'floating Buddha,' so I made it.'' A small sculpture that literally floats in the air and even turns with the trick of using an electric magnet. What's more, he is joining Kyoto's prestigious event, DESIGN WEEK KYOTO this month where he will introduce another novel creation, the ''Drone Buddha.'' We have no idea how he will join a drone and Buddha...You must see it with your own eyes at his studio during the event!


Nishijin-ori, or Nishijin Textile is one of the traditional crafts of Kyoto that the old capital is most proud of, due to its elaborate weaving patterns and techniques. Nishijin Kasuri is one of the techniques of Nishijin-ori which create exceptionally elegant patterns. Only a sophisticated and experienced craftsperson's handworks can achieve such elegant yet energetic designs woven by yarn.

itohen universe is a group whose mission is to tell the world about the beauty of Nishijin Kasuri, hand-woven and hand-dyed cloth. The group consists of a Nishijin textile weaver, a craftsperson producing Nishijin Kasuri fabric, a writer, and a hand-dyeing textile artist who all share the same ideals. Working together with others with special skills, itohen universe functions as a platform where people who are interested in handiworks get together and create new ideas and products.

Only an experienced craftsperson's handworks can achieve such elegant works.

''Today, we live surrounded by countless numbers of items, however, how many of those are truly precious enough to be cherished for a lifetime?'' the group question. They believe that we find an item special and cherish it when we can feel the passion and warmth of the person who created it as well as the predecessors who honored these skills and passions from past generations.

itohen universe is not just a studio in which products are created, but also a place where people meet and connect with each other. They hold workshops and share information about handiworks and woven fabrics throughout the world - Anyone who appreciate handicrafts and the works of skilled craftspeople is welcome to learn more!


There are a great number of types of ceramics in Japan, but they fit into just two main categories: One is ''Toki,'' or earthenware, made with clay and the other is ''Jiki,'' or porcelain, made with powdered stone. Soryu-gama is a marriage of the two ceramic techniques of a husband and wife: the tradition of ''Kiyomizu-ware'' from Kyoto, from where Soryu, the husband hails, and ''Koishiwara-ware'' from Fukuoka, the wife Madoka's hometown.

Soryu and Madoka working in their studio

As potters, Soryu and Madoka Wakunami produce wares that are a fusion of Toki and Jiki - a unique ceramic style no other studio can follow. Kyoto-style delicate porcelain is decorated with techniques from Koishiwara, such as hakeme (brushed slip design) and tobi-kanna (a rhythmic, chatter-like design produced by a metal tool springing against a leather-hard, slip-covered vessel).

Making ''Tobi-kanna'' pattern rhythmically

The couple foresees their future development abroad. They have joined exhibitions and events in Taiwan, Paris, Hong Kong, Rome, Amsterdam, Chicago, and elsewhere. ''Traveling overseas and meeting different people means a lot to us,'' says Madoka. ''It is always inspiring and we learn something new, especially overseas where what we do as normal work in our studio every day is a big surprise to others. This is how new 'innovations' and 'ideas' pop up: we meet people, show our works, and communicate to develop new ideas for new creations.''

Soryu-gama's wearable ceramic accessories

Producing not only classical tea utensils and tableware, Soryu-gama continually strives to expand their creation possibilities. One of their recent products is ''Ceramic Jewelry.'' Soryu-gama's traditional techniques are infused into little ceramic pieces becoming lovely accessories that one can wear.