a lacquerware


"ex officine della Torneria” in Tortona district, from Yuhang Design decorated lacquerware was showed in “Milano Design Week 2017” at the exhibition [róng].

The artist starts from a lacquerware. He sprinkles grain evenly on the lacquerware surface, gently pats it into the form, then he places the pieces into the shade room to dry quietly and slowly. This forms the first layer of an irregular insect-shaped texture made by removing the grains, which can be coined through lacquering in different colors and shades.

Go Home


“ex officine della Torneria” in Tortona district, from Designer Hsiao-Ying Lin “Go Home”  was showed in “Milano Design Week 2017” at the exhibition [róng].

Over the last 5 years, 50 designers have created 5 Chinese crafts that have combined with 500 materials such as bamboo, silk, mud, copper, paper to create 70 design pieces.

One of the most impressionable mediums (for a rice lover like me) was the use of the rice byproduct: rice hull. I am familiar seeing the myriad of ways rice byproducts have been used and am aware of some of the history. We know that in many civilizations rice has an intrinsic symbology that is combined with “life-birth-abundance-fertility.”  So, the thing that caught my fascination the most in this exhibit was the association of rice with its opposed: death.

“Go Home”
Designer: Hsiao-Ying Lin
Materials: carbonized rice, glutinous rice glue.

“Go Home” is a carbonized rice hull container filled with ashes and plants. As the designer states: “it is the most natural, non-toxic, recyclable and natural burial that turns the cemetery into a forest garden called ‘ash burials’.” The carbonized rice hull container can restore the vitality of the land after integration with the soil.

The rice husks is rich in SiO2 monomer and alkaline carbonized husk after charring at temperatures above 800 degrees fahrenheit. The rice hush container supplies soil nutrients and corrects acidification of the soil as well as replenishing nutrients to soil and sustainable vitality.

The designer to presented the container with a familiar biblical quote from Genesis: "Ashes to ashes dust to dust”  So, we can add “rice gifts life to earth…returns to the earth”.

A pottery technique with Rice

Photo: nihonbi.wordpress.com

Photo: nihonbi.wordpress.com

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.

Ceramic with Rice Straw

Before Wood-Firing

Before Wood-Firing

I visited Tony Moore Woodfire Kiln late in the summer to woodfire a few peices of ceramic. This an article talks about Bizen Yaki, which is one of the Japanese pottery techniques used for hundreds of years. I discovered this is a very organic ceramic with natural colors and unexpected patterns.

After Wood-firing

After Wood-firing

Modern “WA (侘)” in Yuzen Kimono


Photo Credit: Yuki Yamamoto,   Yuzen  Artist  Yuki Yamamoto  at  his studio

Photo Credit: Yuki Yamamoto,  Yuzen Artist Yuki Yamamoto at his studio

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.

Photo Credit: Yuki Yamamoto, Yuzen Design 'Tenpuno Tsubasa'

Photo Credit: Yuki Yamamoto, Yuzen Design 'Tenpuno Tsubasa'

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.

Photo Credit: Yuki Yamamoto,  Rice paste has been a main  ingredient in Yuzen process

Photo Credit: Yuki Yamamoto, Rice paste has been a main ingredient in Yuzen process

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.

Photo Credit: Yuki Yamamoto

Photo Credit: Yuki Yamamoto

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.


Micro Art on a rice grain

Photo: Shpangle Jewellery

Photo: Shpangle Jewellery

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.

Create Modern Art

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:

                                              photo credit: designboom.com

                                              photo credit: designboom.com

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  

           photo credit: designboom.com

           photo credit: designboom.com

‘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.