Lacquerer: Yutaka Ohtaki
Graduated from Musashino Art University (Short Program, Design Department) in 1975, after which he succeed the family business. At first, he submitted works to exhibitions such as the Niigata Prefectural Exhibition and Japan Modern Art Exhibition. In the past, he primarily made 2-D abstract and semi-abstract works, and more recently he has been focusing on traditional craft-type work.
Meeting Lacquerer Yutaka Ohtaki
This was four years ago. I was just in the middle of moving house and one of my most precious ceramic bowls that I got from my grandmother broke. Just when I was thinking I had no idea what to do, I saw a TV program about ‘kintsugi’ (mending ceramics with gold or silver, a traditional Japanese method, said to have originated in the Muromachi period when tea drinking became common). Right away I looked on the internet and contacted the first website I found, which happened to be Mr. Ohtaki's. A reply came, saying they would gladly take on my case. I felt great relief and gingerly packaged all the pieces of the poor bowl and sent them on their way.
When my bowl came back, I could almost not believe my eyes - it looked more beautiful than ever. In fact, you could say it looked completely different. There were lines of gold along the cracks and, instead of giving an impression of awkwardness or disturbance, it looked natural, like an intended part of the pattern. Its beauty captivated my heart.
I hadn’t told my grandmother about breaking the bowl until then, but now I could! I got on the train and went over to my grandmother’s to show her. She said, “Oh, it broke? I see you got it mended with gold. That’s nice. In the old days, we always took care of our things like this.” The thing to know about kintsugi is that it’s not just about repairing an item, but to heighten its beauty and value.
This incident led to my crossing paths with Mr. Ohtaki again and again, sending him other ceramics to have mended by gold and also going myself to visit his workshop in Niigata prefecture. Each time, Mr. Ohtaki happily accepted my nitpick requests. The way that he would always kindly yet directly take on each task made a deep impression on me. I was already interested in urushi, and so without hesitation I applied it to some leather. I had been processing and colouring leather for 15 years already but this was the first time I tried urushi. It could be that I wanted to be closer to Mr. Ohtaki and urushi. And so it was that I began a process of trial and error. And now it is four years later. After attempting all sorts of experiments with Mr. Ohtaki, through actual use of urushi, I’ve come to know its special characteristics with my own skin.
- Mayumi Hasegawa