Master Craft Artist Koji Orii
~ The elegance of a flower in a Ikebana Vase stirs excitement in a little space - and if a color of russet or teal, that room takes on a very different feel. ~
For Japan's Master Metal-Coloring artist, Koji Orii, the Japanese single-stem wall and table vase was an interesting traditional object that held potential for a contemporary make-over. However, the traditional colors and methods his family used for works on architectural objects for the Imperial Palace, Buddha statues and the like, also needed a new, contemporary feel and update.
Where Does the Color Come From
When a metal takes on a color it is called a "patina". A patina can occur naturally with time and weather (green patina on copper/brass statues) but, as Mr. Orii' and his craft-artist team well know, can also be created in the studio workshop using fire, water and other traditional and modern treatments. And this is where the challenge occurs because producing these unique colors and patterns consistency requires the techniques and skills of a craftsperson and the eye and intuition of an artist. This unique combination of passed-down craft skills and individual artistic flare makes Momentum Orii craft-studio unique.
To develop new colors meant developing new way of coloring as well. For Master Orii, the efforts to produce new colors lead to the Orii Coloring Process - a set of specialized skills, a mixture of modern and traditional techniques, and the application of unique-to-Japan ingredients. One particular Japan-specific ingredient involves the application of rice bran - a fermented paste for making pickles. This bran is applied to the vases during the process to create the mottled and nebulous patterns seen on the surfaces. Additionally, a special sealant, Ibota, a wax from an insect in Japan is often applied to objects as well.
Many factors determine the outcome of the finished works such as the duration the object is exposed to the treatments, the in door temperatures, surface preparations, the mineral content in the water, the firing of the object, and even the climate of the studio's location in western Japan. The process requires training and artistic skill and the outcome is dependent on each individual craft artist. This also means that each final piece becomes an original piece of craft art.
A Little Backstory
In Takaoka City in western Japan, home to Master metal-coloring artist Koji Orii and Momentum Orii studio, copperwork can trace its roots back 400 years. In 1611, a prominent feudal lord arrived to take up residence along with seven metal-molding artisans. Over the many years the city grew in all aspects of the craft from molding, polishing, engraving, hammering and metal coloring. Embedded in this rich, historical context, Mr. Orii and his team of artisans rely on long-held traditions as they energize the craft for today’s lifestyles.
Master Orii's novel approach to coloring means Momentum Orii is the only studio in the world producing these unique colors and patterns on products for contemporary life. Mr. Orii and his team have used his signature patinas for many commissioned private and public buildings such as the Hyatt Regency Kyoto and Takaoka Museum of Art, among others. Mr. Orii’s distinctive expressions of traditional and modern coloring techniques led to a successful harvest of original patinas including his signature Orii Blue, a mottled pattern in striking teal-blue, and Orii Russet, a nebulous pattern of warm autumn hues. Mr. Orii holds the nationally recognized title of Master of Traditional Crafts.