Saturday, May 2, 2009

Basket #1: Mutsume Morikago

On Thursday this week we started work on our first basket: mutsume morikago. Mutsume, as I explained in the last post, is a hexagonal weave (me refers to the holes between the higo, so, literally, "six hole"), and morikago means a "basket [on/in which you] pile [things]," or more simply, a tray. The bottom is hexagonal in shape, almost 20 centimeters across, and each side tapers together at the top to form a circular rim.

 第一の課題作がとうとう出題された!六つ目盛籠です。先週から練習してきた六つ目編みを活かした籠で、今週の木曜日からその作業をヒゴ取りからスタートさせた。今度はこれまでの練習の時よりも遥かに多いヒゴを取るために、長さ約6メートルの2本の竹を50と90cmの長さ(節がそれぞれ一つ、二つ付いた状態)に鋸で切り、割り剥ぎの工程に入った。

We started preparing the materials for this basket by cutting 6-meter-long culms (proper term for the "trunk" of the bamboo) of dried madake bamboo into 900 and 500 mm-long segments, and proceeded with processing these into higo to be used to weave the bottom and sides. I haven't yet properly described the process of making higo, and I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to find a good pictorial explanation online somewhere, but it's basically a long process of cutting bamboo vertically into strips and thinning those strips over a series of steps to bring them to a precise and consistent width and thickness. This was my first time processing over 200 strips at a time--great practice for improving my abilities, but also probably a realistic taste of the extreme repetitiveness that bamboo basket makers experience to make as ornate baskets as they do. All day Friday I worked on the same usuhagi step, in which I tried to thin higo 1.2-1.5 millimeters thick to a goal thickness of 0.6 millimeters. It's a frustrating process--any strip with a part less than 0.55 millimeters (the final thickness for weaving) thin is worthless. Measuring my strips with electronic calipers, my higo after usuhagi wavered between .5-something and .7-something millimeters; many I had to throw out because they were too thin in places, and many I had to thin again between they were over 0.8 millimeters, too thick to take to the next step. The picture below is my workspace; it shows a pile of segments in the arawari stage, where the bamboo is split radially (what they sometimes call "chrysanthemum splitting"), before the hagi stage when the strips are thinned by removing their inner side, opposite the skin.
 今度はものすごい数のヒゴだから、例えば今まで20分ぐらいしか掛からなかった荒割り(半円に割った竹を6ミリなどの幅の棒に割る作業)の工程が2、3時間掛かった。金曜日の訓練時間もすべて薄剥ぎ(竹割り包丁で約1.4ミリの厚さに剥いだヒゴを更に薄く、0.6ミリの厚さに剥ぐ作業)の工程に使っちゃった。私の性格で言えばもともと繰り返しの多い作業には別に飽きはしないが、しかもこれは自分の腕を上達させるためにも必要な時間だったけど、200本ものヒゴを加工することがこんなに体力、手間が掛かるのは経験上知らなかった。そして何よりも、慣れない正座や胡坐で一日中座って作業するのだから、脚がしびれたり、膝も痛くなったりして、こ~れは大変と思った。剥ぎの段階で失敗が多いから、ヒゴはわざと必要以上に作っているんだけど、もっと緻密な編みの籠となると、もっともっと作らなければいけなくなる。やはり、いろんな人から聞いた通り、竹細工の職人になるまでの道程は長いな~と、竹そのものに思い知らされている感じだった。

4 comments:

  1. こんばんわ。いちかわです。
    ついにコメントするよ!
    毎日新しいことの連続で、一つ一つを身につけて自分だけの「味」を出せるのにどのくらいかかるんだろう。本当、道程は長いなーって、日々感じるよね。
    ところで、あぐら用のイスもあるらしいよ!

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  2. 嘘や!あぐら用のイスなんてありえない。どんな形してるのかな?

    そうだね、自分の「味」というのはしばらくは出せないかもしれないね。見本をそのまま作り直すことばっかりだから。12月になると応用作があるから、その時やっと自分の作りたいものが作れる。楽しみだね。

    ところで、最近私の材料を加工するペースがすごく落ちてる感じがする。なぜだろう。。。

    コメントありがとう!また明日がんばろうね!

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  3. I read the news of you on Oita-godo newspaper!
    You are great!
    I hope you will show lots of products you make in this website.

    By the way, I maybe met you wearing samurai worrier's uniform in Kitsuki city on March 5...

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  4. Thank you! I'll do my best to show what we are making at the bamboo craft training school. We're almost finished the mutsume morikago, actually! I'll post an update about that soon.

    Yes, Caitlyn and I were in the Edo parade at the Kitsuki Oshiro-matsuri. It was a hot, tiring day wearing the samurai costume for so long, but it was fun and I learned a lot.

    Thanks for reading my blog and also for commenting! Feel free to write your thoughts.
    See you next time.

    ReplyDelete