‘Hakeme’ is a decorative ceramic technique which uses a stiff brush to apply slip directly to the surface of pots or dishes. The slip on the surface creates a rustic look appearing like unfinished or small cracks. This is called "Wabi-sabi". The handmade brush is made from grain straws, mainly rice straw. In Korea the technique is coarse and obvious, whereas in Japan the technique became more refined and soft.
The game Tug-of-War has ancient origins in cultures around the world. The phrase "tug-of-war" originally meant "the decisive contest; the real struggle or tussle; a severe contest for supremacy." This contest comes from ancient ceremonies and rituals. Evidence of this ritual is found in countries like Egypt, India, Myanmar, and New Guinea. During the Tang Dynasty it was called "hook pulling" (牽鉤). In ancient Greece, the sport was called helkustinda. It was not until the 19th century that the contest became an athletic endeavor between two teams pulling at opposite ends of the rope.
In Korea, there are tug-of-war contests or, juldarigi, on rice farms to celebrate Full Moon Day in the New Year. The Full Moon Day celebrates the new growing season and hopes for a plentiful harvest.
To play the game, each household makes a rope together by weaving and twisting a straw line. It can be as long as 20 meters in length. Teams of folk people will be divided into east and west or north and south of the village. Tradition believes that the winning side will have a better yield during harvest. During the pull, festive performances cheer the play alongside the action. After the game is over and the winners determined, the rope gets decorated on a tree or a rock that symbolizes a village or, the rope is donated to fishing boats to ensure a great harvest season.
In Japan, the tug-of-war (綱引き/Tsunahiki in Japanese) is a staple of school sports festivals. The tug-of-war is also a traditional way to pray for a plentiful harvest throughout Japan and it is a popular ritual around the country. The Kariwano Tug-of-War in Daisen, Akita, is said to be more than 500 years old, and is a national folklore cultural asset.The Underwater Tug-of-War Festival in Mihama, Fukui is 380 years old, and takes place in every January.The Sendai Great Tug of War in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima is known as Kenka-zuna or "brawl tug". Around 3,000 men pull a huge rope which is 365 metres (1,198 ft) long. The event is said to have been started by feudal warlord Yoshihiro Shimadzu, with the aim of boosting the morale of his soldiers before the decisive Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Nanba Hachiman Jinja's Tug-of-War, which started in the Edo period, is Osaka's folklore cultural asset.The Naha Tug-of-War in Okinawa is also a famous ritual.
1. What or how did you get started in making YUZEN art?
I always liked painting and drawing since I was child. My family had own tailor shop and my grandmother was wishing me to be a kimono artist. After high school, I entered to train my father’s tailor shop. After more than 10 years of training, I had started my own business that continued to motivate my passion to where I am now with 40 plus years career as a Yuzen artist.
2. What is the biggest the challenge of your work?
Unlike modern kimono artist training, my teacher never taught how to draw or what I suppose to do. I felt that I was trying to to steal my teacher’s skill over the shoulder. I assumed that self-taught under the master was the best way to learn at that time. These days, it isn't possible to train like that.
3. What was the most exclusive design you have ever made?
When I was 30 years old, I painted the classic old fairy tale “The Tale of Genji” series. Recently, I accomplished collaboration between classic and modern style to one of my clients “Tenpuno Tsubasa” which took 6 months to finish.
4. How does involve the rice in your art work?
It is very important ingredient in coloring process to protect / support the draft lines.
5. Do you use specific rice and do you make own rice paste?
Sweet rice, rice bran and rice powder have been used for a paste mix. Traditionally, artists made their own paste, however it is available to buy pre-made the paste these days. It always requires adjustment with salt depending upon weather, fabric type.
6. Is silk fabric the only one that uses rice paste technique?
Yes, Yuzen is only used on silk fabric.
7. If someone wants to be a YUZEN artist, how they can start? Is there school?
There are local community or 2 year college program, but if someone really considers to be an artist, they should proceed to be trained by a master artist. Unlike years ago, Yuzen master artist have less interns and less chance to pass their skills. Gender interest shows more females as their hobby. Back to years ago, males occupied the tradition more than females as their main profession, but it gains more attention to female as their hobby sine WW2.
8. What is your message for next generation who want to be a YUZEN artist?
There are about 100 Yuzen artists in Japan. I think my Yuzen style will end in my time, so I don't believe I will be able to pass my style to the next generation. However, I could pass an inspiration, creativity, motivation for sure.
9. What is your message to New Yorkers?
As seen my recent work “Tenpuno Tsubasa”, I want New Yorkers to see modern “WA (侘)” through my Yuzen style. Also, looking for the connection to communicate between artists and consumers. I believe encouraging connection will continue with the next generation of Yuzen art.
Mr. Yamamoto’s dedication of the traditional Japanese delicate techniques "Yuzen" express and designs ultimate drawing in his art works. He try to connect between traditional and modern lifestyles with Yuzen Art.
Rice writing originated in ancient Turkey and India. Messages or names were inscribed on a single grain of rice and encapsulated in a small vial filled with mineral oil, which magnified the writing. One of the oldest known examples is housed in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. The art of rice writing was a symbol of wealth and prosperity. It also brought good luck, hence some of its most popular forms are good luck pendants.
For hundreds of years, dry rice straw has traditionally been used as roofing material, wall insulation, and as a fuel source. More recently, dry rice straw has inspired artists to create modern art projects. The following art pieces, two types of stools, have appeared in international exhibitions which could also be used in our homes:
‘the remains after the harvesting season on the farms are large bundles of rice straw. it used to be my favourite playground. rice straw is something very familiar to koreans – even if you don’t reside on a farm. (…) I made a bundle and wrapped them with belts that are normally used to stabilize boxes or furniture etc. then I cut the top off to make it into a stool. I call this ‘zip’ because rice straw is called ‘zip’ in korean, which also sounds like the english word… the rice straw is literally zipped (compressed) into a bundle.’ – kwangho lee 2010
‘Straw Stool’ by Gina Hsu and Nagaaki Shaw
Gina Hsu and Nagaaki Shaw of Tawainese firm DHH studio have created ‘straw stool’. the chair looks at employing the qualities of rice, grain and straw as a medium for the jenju village community initiative, which aims to preserve the village’s rural culture surrounding the rice paddy industry. The seating reflects the material exploration with strong textural characteristics of the natural components celebrated in the piece. As the natural substance does not have much durability on its own, it is combined with epoxy resin to improve its strength.
The Yuzen dyeing technique begins by outlining a drawn pattern on the Kimono fabric with a mixture of rice paste containing glutinous rice powder, rice bran and lime. The dried rice paste mixture, called a paste resist, provides a barrier to prevent the brushed on dye from seeping into other parts of the fabric. After the paste resist dries the fabric is painted with a brush using the desired dye colors. When the paint is dry, the fabric is smoothed with steam in order to adjust the length and width, and to remove the rice paste.
Developed at the end of the 17th century, this technique of handcrafting Kimono patterns is still the most prestigious in Japanese textile culture. The process is very expensive. In order to make Yuzen Kimonos more widely available, labor-saving costs were necessary. Today the techniques have been modified and developed to adapt to western technology in order to mass produce the Kimonos affordably. Yuzen-dyed Kimonos are the most popular in Japan.
Bizen ware (備前焼 Bizen-yaki)
Soil is rich with iron where rice grows. This produces organic matter that creates a unique quality for primary ceramic materials. Niigata prefecture is known for the best short grain rice production area in Japan. They are also well known for one of traditional Japanese pottery style for hundreds of years. They have been using the iron rich soil for making the pottery called Bizen Yaki. Without glazing, Bizen Yaki has a red to dark brown color, a signature organic pottery.
Dry rice straw is used in Japan to color or create patterns on pottery. The rice straw is wrapped around the pieces leaving red and brown marks during the firing process. This technique is also used for dying material on pottery art in the Niigata prefecture region, Japan. Dry rice straw contains high amounts silica and oxalates, which create a unique texture.