By Patricia Wersinger
The Japanese cultural tradition of deriving its inspiration from nature is a well-known fact admired through out the world. A Japanese saying “Yaorozu no Kami” (eight million deities) alludes to the spirits that reside in everything in the universe. In our time of uncertainty, a new interest has emerged to rediscover the craft traditions of Japan and integrate them into a new tradition for the future. On February 10th, I had the pleasure to attend the Future Tradition Wao Exhibition at the Capsule Studio in New York City. Produced by Fashion journalist Yoshiko Ikoma, the project is commissioned from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Japan to support the promotion of “Japan Branding (COOL JAPAN)” and introduce products that merge the old and the new to represent arts and crafts of the 21st century. 150 works were carefully selected among 1300 entries from all over Japan to represent Japan’s traditional craftmanship technique and embody COOL JAPAN concepts. Collaborations with well – known brands such as Baccarat, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Pierre Cardin were also highlighted in the exhibition.
This exhibition was fascinating as the subtlety and aesthetic sensibility of traditional Japanese craft was applied to an array of exquisite objects unrevealing the future in a subtle marriage. The objects were included in three categories, Collaboration Handicrafts, Curators-selected Handicrafts and Future Tradition Handicrafts and went from Fashion, House wares to Cool Stuff. I especially admired the unusual plate that was made of porcelain by the Kim Jeeah Company representing “scenes of nature that are internalized within us all”.
Another arresting object was a Washi (Japanese Paper) bowl by the Kamazawa Craftwork Business Creation Agency, in which the texture of the material was crucial. The bowls were shaped to wrap around the food that is served in them. Famous Tokyo Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa uses them in his restaurant and was quoted as saying that the artwork fits with his attempt to create light with cooking.
The name of the exhibit “Wao”, a new world of Japanese craftsmanship meaning “Japanese Renaissance” is a combination of two Japanese words “WA” stands for the rebirth of Japan but it also alludes to the colloquial “WOW”expressed when one encounters something innovative. The show succeeded very well in mingling both surprise and admiration. In our age of uncertainty, a new interest in traditional values is manifest in the whole world. Craft is seen as an embodiment of these everlasting values because it represents the best in the spirit of a people and offers a solid bridge to a questionable future.
The “Future Tradition WAO”Cool Japan project is due in Paris in March. To learn more about “future Tradition WAO” and the featured products featured in the exhibition visit http://www.cooljapan-wao.com.