Hand-hammered Copperware | Blue Patina | Shimakura

Traditional Art form for Contemporary Life

--Many who see Japan’s fine-craft copperwork would agree, it's an art form. In Japan, creating such objects of art – those that have value beyond the functional - takes years of apprenticeship and an almost single-minded dedication to the craft.

As a traditionally-trained Tsuiki Copperwork (hand-hammering) Master Artisan, Masayuki Shimakura relies heavily on those specialized skills handed down generations and his own individual mastery to now create objects that complement modern life – thereby adding new energy to a traditional craft art of Japan.

Working from a family studio nestled in the rice fields of Niigata, Shimakura draws encouragement from the deep historical roots of the area where metalworks began in the Edo Period (1603 and 1868) with the manufacture of nails. Nearby sources of raw copper led to an expansion in copperwork, and from about the mid to late 1700s, the copperware industry took off as new hammering techniques and skills advanced the craft.

Mr. Shimakura still uses those same traditional crafting techniques today and holds the nationally acclaimed title of Master of Traditional Crafts awarded through the Craft Art Foundation of the Government of Japan and Industry.

The Art of Hand-hammering a Coffee Pot

The work of the copper artisan can’t even begin without the right tools. Since Tsuiki Copperwork is so specialized, most artisans, including Mr. Shimakura, own hundreds of specialized tools that they themselves have made. These typically include the mallets (iron and wooden) for hammering and specialized iron bars to hold the object as it is expertly shaped.

 


To create a coffee pot/kettle base, Shimakura uses a single sheet of copper plate. Blow after blow and strike after strike, up to several hundred thousand times, this one flat piece is carefully and meticulously hand-hammered as he “sculpts” and "shrinks" the copper into shape to form the kettle base and produce the signature dimpled pattern. Throughout, the copper coffee pot is repeatedly heated in a furnace and soaked in water to facilitate hammering. The spout and top are similarly fashioned, then a rich blue patina finish and a lacquer sealant are applied to the finished product.