~The elegance of a flower
in an Ikebana vase,
stirs excitement in a little space -
and if a color of russet or teal,
that room takes on a very different feel. ~
Meet Japanese Master Craft Artist Koji Orii
When you first walk into Japan's Master Metal-Coloring artist, Koji Orii's atelier, you might be struck by the authentic feel and energy of "artists at work". A hot fire pops and crackles in the corner, buckets of "secret" conconctions used in the coloring process are lined up nearby. Tools and implements are scattered, and a barn-like studio door opens wide to a view of ricefields beyond.
In that small lively studio, young metal-coloring artists apprentice learning traditional and modern skills.
In that small workshop, the community's school children and adults gather, and experience the traditional craft of metal coloring.
And in that small workshop, Mr. Orii carries on the family traditions while also adding to the family porfolio new and innovative works: vases, jewelry, coasters and other home decor objects all handcrafted with precision and care.
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.
The Color of Metal - Patina!
When it comes to color on metal, patina is its name! Some patinas occur naturally - think about the green patinas often seen gracing copper or brass statues in your city.
That's one way, but, as Mr. Orii and his craft-artist team well know, patinas can also be created in the studio workshop using fire, water and other traditional and modern treatments. The Japanese traditional single-stem wall and table vases seen here, Mr. Orii believed, presented an interesting opportunity to give a traditional home decor object a contemporary make-over in both color and form. And to produce these these unique, contemporary colors on these new copper vases require not only the techniques and skills of a traditionally-trained craftsperson, but also the eye and intuition of a contemporary craft artist. This unique combination of passed-down craft skills and individual artistic flare makes Momentum Orii craft-studio unique.
New Uses for Japanese Rice and Bugs
Master Orii found that to develop new copper patina colors meant developing new ways of coloring as well - a combinaton of 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 indoor 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 Made-in-Japan CraftArt!
Japanese Patinas For Interior Design
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.
These lovely patinas add unique touches to any home decor whether on objects such as vases in tiny spaces, or on more massive areas in interior design like this wall “patina tapestry” seen here.
Mr. Orii and his team have used his signature patinas for many commissioned private and public building interiors 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.