Where Have All The Months Gone? (Campai),

Urushi cup in a wooden box
Limited edition of 100 wooden urushi cups

My name is Kwai Chang Caine, I am a Shaolin master traveling
through the American old West, looking for my half-brother
Danny Caine. I am not aware that I am the main character of
a TV series which ran from 1972 to 1975. In my quest I would
try to avoid being noticed but because of my training and
sense of social responsibility I would repeatedly be forced
out into the open, to fight for justice or protect the underdog.
My name is Fox Mulder, I am an FBI agent investigating
X-Files — marginalised, unsolved cases involving paranormal
phenomena — looking for my sister Samantha who I believe
was abducted by Aliens. I am not aware that I am one of the
main characters of a TV series which ran from 1993 to 2002.
In my quest, I would repeatedly be forced to solve paranormal
mysteries totally unrelated to the disappearance of my sister.
Our friend Ryan often makes fun of what he calls residency
surfers, people whose practice, to his opinion, are distracted
by so-called contextual projects. He has a point but if
Caine or Mulder had found their siblings immediately, the
mythology of the respective stories wouldn’t be complex
and at times misled.

It is in one such residency in Wajima, a town separately famed
for its lacquerware and fishing industry that we met the Urushi
crafts(wo)men. The six thousand-year old tradition has been
perfected a long time ago, a painstaking covering of wood in
the poisonous sap of a specific tree in layers that take months
to dry. No less than seven hyper specialised craftsmen work
one after the other into the slowest fordist dichotomy the
industrialisation forgot. Eight or more if you include the user
who does need some understanding that dishwashers did
not exist when Urushi was developed.

Here, the factory retained the shape of a village, no bricks or
cliché high chimneys because this warehouse only produces
dozens, never millions.

The structure is perhaps closer to Fourier’s phalanstère, as
on top of the hierarchy sits the Nushiya-san, the protector
of his or her family of craftsmen who will exclusively work
through commissions coming from him/her, it is still difficult
to address the craftsmen directly.

The techniques are perfect but they are facing fierce competition.
The bowl of rice in Wajima Urushi is exactly 100 times
more expensive than its equivalent in plastic. The point,
however, is elsewhere. As one hand polisher told us, he is
the only ones on a golf course wearing two gloves to protect
his fingerprint-less fingers. THAT, is of interest.

Meanwhile, I am a cowboy turned gold digger in California.
I didn’t have a bath for weeks and have not found gold in
the seven months I arrived here. I enter a bar and order a
drink. It is the late XIXth century and I have heard of stories
of rich people in Europe eating oysters. There are sea snots
in millions, here, in the bays. I hail the bartender and order
oysters dipped in a full glass of crap whiskey.

Back to Wajima where it is obvious that you are either a
fisherman or a craftsman. Different class, different area of
the town. They wouldn’t meet for a drink or socialise. However,
you can meet the product of their respective labour on
a plate of the most exquisite seasonal fish on the delicate
lacquerware. Lucky we are also on the Japan sea, on the
other side of Fukushima.

I am in one of the most hidden bars in London today. I am
drinking one of the best whiskey in the world which happens
to be Japanese with a British born oyster, in a wooden cup.
An “objet” in French but said by a Japanese is not exactly
an artwork. Whatever its origins, the word was used in our
presence in Wajima to try and define something without any
function, maybe a folly. The extravagant Urushi decoration
pieces of the 80s are it. A disturbing display of wealth, exemplified
by a whole bathroom with oval entrance we visited as
a testimony of the arrogance of a period in recent Japanese
history when average salarymen spent all their weekends
skiing to be able to spend their unlimited wealth.
After a while, all we could think of, all our new ideas were
using Urushi, was coated in natural varnish, was made with
our new friends. It was time to move on.
åbäke 2014

The seven stages of the Urushi production and the individuals
involved are as follows:

1/ Nushiya: Shinichi Shioyasu / 塗師屋: 塩安眞
2/ Kiji (wood carving): Masatoshi Kakichi / 木地: 垣地政利
3/ Shitaji ( under coat): Masahiko Sakamoto / 下地: 坂本雅彦
4/ Nakanuri (middle coat ): Satoshi Tanaka / 中塗り: 田中聡
5/ Uwanuri (top coat): Akira Kosaka / 上塗り: 小坂朗
6/ Togi (polishing): Katsumi Hida / 研ぎ: 比田かつみ
7/ Makie (gold decoration): Minoru Ohashi / 蒔絵: 大端稔
The cups were produced with Emiko Oki.

Price £280

Price Including Postage


Author / Editor: Åbäke
Design: Åbäke
Year: 2014
Price: £280 Postage & Package not included
First Edition: 100
Weight: 225 g
Width: 10.5 cm
Height: 10.5 cm
Quality: Urushi cup in wodden box with stamped cloth