Photo Project Highlights Japanese Craftsmanship In Era of Mass Production


Images try and revive the the beautiful art of meticulously handcrafted goods

Ross Brooks
  • 17 july 2014

Japanese craftsmanship is considered some of the best in the world, but as mass production continues to grow, their way of life is under threat. In an attempt to preserve their culture, Miho Aikawa set out with her camera to capture the little-known stories of Japanese Craftsmen. The series captures the intimate world of glass blowing and jewelry making to show just how much devotion goes into each and every piece – the one thing that sets these masters apart from everyone else.

The first set goes inside Sugahara Studio in Chiba, Japan where each worker is treated as an artist. Changes in the climate, and other subtle variations can seriously affect the final outcome where glass is concerned. Regardless, each of the masters is able to produce a perfect piece of glass no matter how drastically the conditions change.

Everyone inside the workspace has also learnt how to co-ordinate perfectly, with the only sounds being their footsteps moving from one area to another, or the mixing of materials inside a furnace. As Aikawa describes on her website:

What I saw was the fusion of sensitivity and precision at the highest level, a level which only humans could achieve through culture, discipline and talent.

The second location is n+a studio in New York City’s Tribeca, where sisters Noriko and Akiko handcraft delicate pieces of jewelry. Even though they are based in the US, nearly all of the tools they use were made in Japan, which is a testament to the unique quality of workmanship from the Far East.

Unlike the workshop in Japan, this studio is a bit more lively:

Energetic vibe and cheerful laughter filled the room as the two artists told me about the so many ideas they plan to try out and put into production.

Aikawa’s photos not only provide a glimpse inside this mysterious world, but also raise some important questions. Efficiency in productions has its uses, but where does it end, and do we really want to eradicate an entire way of life for so many skilled craftsmen, not just in Japan, but around the world?

We will continue to see cheap, so-so quality products as long as ‘the race for the bottom’ continues around the globe. This is certainly bad news for the craftsmen who spend their entire life producing quality products, hoping that whoever buys their crafts will take good care of their art as it attains its uniqueness through use and age.

Miho Aikawa

Images by Miho Aikawa


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