Tokyo Crafts & Design

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The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, which sits right at the heart of what many see as Tokyo’s museum hub, Ueno Park, gives everything from Spanish Renaissance art to traditional culture and crafts a stage.

We often list its shows and events and can usually find something to recommend, but this time it’s more of a concept and a tie-up we’d like to introduce, especially to those of you who may have missed it first time round.

The idea of ‘keeping tradition alive’ can be thought to have become a cliché that results in hackneyed designs with patterns you will see again and again – the idea behind this project, though, seems to be that to celebrate the past you need to remember we are now in the present.

Paperweight - moiré

Its website states that the “initiative aims to establish a model where traditional techniques are not only protected but are led to evolve to fit the modern culture from the designer’s viewpoint.”

The Tokyo Crafts & Design project says it aims to create new traditions through collaboration between traditional craftsmen who need product ideas that suit modern lifestyles and designers who want to apply their ideas and design to the crafts.

The ‘see a solution to a problem and make something’ – the starting point for many of the most successful inventors, surely? – philosophy seems very sensible to us. In a modern world, we might no longer need some of the things these artisans can make, but there still should be a place for their skills.

So jewelry and product designers have been paired up with craftsmen to help them, along with other specialists from the industry such as museum curators and art directors, come up with something fresh.

Gaining a deep knowledge of each other’s work seemed key to coming up with items that get the best out of both the design and craft skills on show.

The silver ring you can see at the top is a cabochon (round polished) ring created using the shippo-yaki (cloisonné enameling) technique. It is titled “Tokyo Cabochon Ring – At Night” and its color was apparently inspired by Tokyo and its landscape. Can you see the highways and green space in there, somewhere? Perhaps you need to look quite deeply but whatever you think, the concept is interesting.

You can take a look at some of the other designs and learn more about the pairings that have made some of the most interesting products at this website, or visit the museum yourself to get a closer look.