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YASUOMI NEZU
WOOD ART (Paulownia Wood)
Mr. Nezu was born into a family of wood craftsmen, specialists in the use of Paulownia wood. After graduating from university, he went into the family business, succeeding his father and grandfather. He makes and repairs a wide variety of Paulownia wood products. His specialty is making bags. This is a unique type of Paulownia wood craftsmanship (kiri-kogei), not seen before.
Features of Paulownia wood
The wood of the Paulownia tree is the lightest of all native trees in Japan. It is moisture absorbent, has good insulating properties and is naturally insect resistant. For these reasons, it is often used for making chests of drawers, wooden clogs geta and boxes. It is soft, and feels familiar to your skin. Kogei products made of Paulownia make use of these characteristics. Japanese people like using them in their daily lives. Paulownia boxes are highly regarded for use as luxury vanity cases (they exude a sense of luxury from a Japanese point of view).

PRODUCT CONCEPT

Nowadays woodwork products are not used so much in our daily lives. Mr. Nezu’s initial inspiration for his Paulownia bags was that he wanted more people to know more about the merits of using Paulownia wood. He was keen to create fashion items, and has produced bags which combine traditional techniques for highlighting the grain of the Paulownia wood with bright, vivid colors. These bags will certainly grab people’s attention, and will add a bit of an edge to your fashion look!

PRODUCTION PROCESS

Applying box-making techniques to bags

The process of making Paulownia cases is to some extent comparable to the techniques used for making textile bags. The artist cuts the wood, just like cutting cloth. Just like sewing with a machine, he makes the outline of a box using glue and nails. He attaches a pocket made of cowhide leather inside the case, and planes down the inner sections, reachable by hand, and its corner surfaces, to finish off the frame of the case.

Blowtorching the grain to add natural vividness of color

The trademark of his work is the way he finishes the surface of the wood. He burns the surface with a flame, and brushes off the soot to emphasize the pattern of the wood grain. Next is the process of coloring the wood, using pigment he has mixed himself. The coloring he uses is not the kind of thick paint which you apply in one coat. It is thin, with a watercolor-like shade and tone. By applying this three to five times, he makes the paint match the texture and shade of the pattern of the wood grain.

  • Burning the Paulownia wood surface with a flame. This is an ancient technique, known as jidai-yaki. Burning the wood hardens it and makes it more resilient.

  • When the soot is rubbed off, the soft part of the wood is brushed away, leaving the hard grain behind.

  • At the end he rubs wax onto the surfaces. Polishing with a bamboo spatula and deer horn gives it a gentle sheen.

PRODUCTS BY YASUOMI NEZU

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