Artisan carves new territory through traditional Hakone woodcraft
Network provides support
A group called zoukibayashi (“zouki” means “miscellaneous small trees” and “bayashi” means “musical accompaniment”) assisted Shimizu after he moved to Hakone, providing technical advice and general mentorship. The group consists of young craftspeople from different guilds.
The group’s members met at a plane usage training session that was organized by the local marquetry association. The session’s participants all happened to be of a similar age, and the association chair suggested that they initiate some activities of their own.
The group’s core activities include disseminating information via exhibitions, improving their skills, and creating new sales channels.
Each member’s workshop allows zoukibayashi members to use their equipment and facilities outside business hours. This has enabled members to manufacture their own goods. Thanks to this support, the members can improve themselves through friendly rivalry but still work as a collective. This is akin to musical instruments in a concert, the idea of which is represented in the zoukibayashi name.
“When I was working under my master, I was able to envision how I could produce my own artworks. Looking back at that time once again reminds me of what a luxury that was,” Shimizu reminisced.
It is almost 15 years since the zoukibayashi group formed. Its members are approaching their late 30s and 40s. Expectations are high for them as middle-ranking workers who are in their prime to play a leading role in revitalizing the Hatajuku area.
Master artisans who have long supported centers of traditional craft production seem to possess a broad-mindedness that has enabled younger craftspeople to achieve success. Shimizu thinks such a trait has hugely influenced his manufacturing.
“I am reassured that the art form’s traditions are properly protected by my mentors. Because of this, I have been able to experiment making things that could reveal a new approach to bringing out marquetry’s attractiveness,” Shimizu explained.
Many centers of traditional craft production are experiencing hardship due to a lack of successors. Shimizu calmly said his “environment is blessed” and his current situation has allowed him to pursue new possibilities. His modest yet confident personality appears well reflected in his work.