Where form meets function
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The Rig Out crew offer up an Issue 5 exclusive, another superb shoot from their school trip to Tokyo. An extended series from “The Department of Small Works” story, here we meet some of the craftsmen that reside in the city and hear a little about their trade. Dan Doyle and James Bowthorpe set about interviewing these makers, “documenting this aspect of Japanese culture – compact living and working, in James’ words “the same culture that brought us the Walkman or Gameboy. Small boxes, complicated insides”” With images from Antony Crook, styling from Glenn Kitson – Screens, Chandeliers,Violins…an incredible peek into the world of the Tokyo Workshop.

Read on and Click through our gallery for lots more.

Mr Yamada

How long have you been doing this?
35 years, my dad taught me.
What do you make?
I make hat samples for lots of people, I can make any kind of hat.
How long do these bike helmets take to make?
One of these bicycle hats takes about an hour to make, with different staff doing different stages of the helmet.
Where do you get your raw materials?
Our materials come from all over Japan, depending on what it is. For these bike helmets Rin Projects provide the leather in the colours they want and I make it into helmets.
How long have you been working with Rin Projects?
I’ve been working with Yamada for 25 years and Rin Projects for 8 of those.

Mr Suzuki

How long have you been doing this?
34 years. I’ve been in this workshop since the 90s.
Who taught you?
My father. His father taught him.
Are you teaching anyone?
I have a son who is still a teenager… I’m not sure that he is going to carry on the craft. If someone wants to work here, I’ll teach them.
Talk us through it.
This comes as raw copper which is then spun into these cups. I then hammer it into shape after heating it.
Who buys your craft?
People buy them for daily use but they are also commonly bought for gifts. Christmas is coming, I am very busy!

Mr Tanaka

How long have you been doing this?
The company is over a hundred years old, I’m third generation and I’ve done this for 50 years.
Are you teaching anyone?
I am teaching this young man. He has been here for two weeks.
Who uses your products?
These screens are for daily use, so everyone buys them. I also make special screens for temples, which are more elaborate.
How long does it take to make each one of your standard screens?
I can make three in a day.
Where do your materials come from?
All over Japan, different regions make different bamboo that are used for different purposes.

Mr Hirato

When did you start making these chandeliers?
I lived in America in the early 90’s, when people from Japan were coming over and buying lots of vintage; I dealt in a lot of different vintage. I also went to Italy to buy chandeliers; one day I was in a store and someone came in with a broken chandelier that had been left to him by his grandfather. The grandfather of the man running the store had made this chandelier. This was a real revelation for me, the two grandsons meeting again over the same chandelier! Before that I was thinking of buying and margins. After this experience I came back to Tokyo to create that same kind of store. I started doing this business in 2002. I wanted to create something that wouldn’t be part of the throw away culture and so I arranged to be taught by the craftsman I met in Italy, to carry on his skill.
Are you teaching anyone?
I have two apprentices, they are 24 years old.
Do these kinds of skill run in the family?
My family runs an off-license just outside Tokyo, so no.

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