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BISHO & KAORI KAZAWA
METAL ART / ENGRAVING & INLAYING
Bisho and Kaori Kazawa are both shiroganeshi. Shiroganeshi were originally blacksmiths who made swords and knives; over time their products have become more decorative and artistic. The Kazawas work with bronze, silver, and gold, and oversee the whole metal-making process themselves: fusion, forming, polishing, coloring and chasing (engraving with a chisel/graver).
Bisho’s father started the family workshop. His skills have been handed down to both artisans, and the business has now been running for over 100 years. Their workshop produces ornaments and traditional calligraphy tools for shrines, temples and historical buildings. When Kanazawa railway station was refurbished, they were responsible for the design of one of the 24 different ornamental panels used in the station concourse. They have now branched out into producing fashion accessories, as a natural extension of their skills and knowledge.

PRODUCT CONCEPT

Four-leaf clovers are recognized as a symbol of good luck all over the world, but Japan has countless lucky charms of its own. Because of Japanese people’s sense of closeness to and appreciation of Nature, their superstitions are often expressed through motifs taken from Nature. For this collection, we have selected a few of the most popular items in superstitious culture: fuku (fugu: blowfish), kiku (chrysanthemum), otafuku-mame (large broad bean), ume (plum), hyotan (gourd). Their light-hearted, interesting shapes are guaranteed to attract attention – and, hopefully, some good luck as well!

PRODUCTION PROCESS

Metal working techniques

There are three principal aspects to metalwork: hammering, casting and engraving. The Kazawa family mainly uses hammering and engraving. In engraving, the metal is struck or carved, with patterns made on the surface of the metal with hammer and a chisel/graver called tagane*. There are two particular techniques: carving a metal plate in relief (illustrated in the middle picture below), and engraving and then inlaying a base metal (shown in the right hand picture below). The two artisans are skilled in both engraving and inlaying and will use both techniques as appropriate**.
*A graver tagane is made of iron, and comes in varied styles and shapes. Artisans use different tagane, depending on the type of pattern they want to carve.
**It is increasingly rare for one artisan to specialize in more than one of these techniques. But Bisho has broadened his metal-working capabilities and powers of creative expression by learning two techniques, as has his daughter, Kaori.

60 seconds of intense concentration

When working with flat metal surfaces, the Kazawas use an engraving block. They first apply pine resin* to the block, then place a piece of metal plate over it. With this, they are ready to start the metalworking process.
Metal softens when high heat is applied. Artisans utilize this characteristic when they are creating works in relief (3D), using a graver to shape the metal. They only have a minute to do this. If they strike the same spot too often, the metal breaks. So they need to work fast, but delicately. They make convex and concave shapes in relief by working on the front and then the back of the metal plate. They create fine lines and detailed, intricate patterns. For this collection, we introduce items that combine these techniques and designs.
*Pine resin softens when it is warm, and hardens as it cools. It adheres to and fills in complicated patterns and designs in the metal, helping the artists in their metalworking, and is easy to remove once the resin cools.

  • The Kazawas have hundreds of different gravers in their workshop. Artisans say having the right tools and gravers is vital for the art of successful metalworking. Artisans make and use their own individual gravers to fit their hands perfectly.

  • From top left to bottom right, this picture shows the key steps in the metalworking process. Gravers are used to bring out shapes and patterns on the surface.

  • Zogan is an inlay technique whereby a base metal surface is engraved to a depth of 0.1mm, and other types of metal are then inlaid. Flat inlaid surfaces are called hira-zogan. The picture shows a piece with metal already inlaid.