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Artist, Artisan, Craftsman, Maker?

Artist, Artisan, Craftsman, Maker?

Kihachi san and Satake san traditional wood turning and lacquering in Japan

In Spring we had a great conversation with Satake san and Suya san. Their collaboration is quite intense and this kind of collaboration between patron and craftsman is an ancient one in Japan.

What struck us was the complete lack of ego from them both. The picture is of them both deep in conversation about wood-turning – they did not want to have portraits shots done because they felt that their products were all that is worth photographing.

They comprehensively reject the idea of being designers or artists: they merely reveal the beauty of the wood in their works. In Satake san’s case, he refuses to deal with retail customers and has stopped all social media because of the enquiries he gets. He felt it was demeaning to the local area and elevated him and his talents too far.

In this way, he shares many of our views (although we rather like dealing with retail customers!), in that we feel that we are just a conduit for their skills and talents to be seen by more of the world. That is why when people ask at a trade show if we are the ‘designers’ or ‘curators’, we prefer to say that we are just partners of our Makers.

In the same way that Sumo wrestlers are not meant to openly celebrate their wins, this behaviour is traced back to the Shinto belief system and is deeply engrained in Japanese culture. And it produces craftsman who are ambitious and skilful but at the same time very humble and great fun to be around.