traditional woodcraft cultural exchange to Japan

I am feeling very honoured to have been invited to take part in a very special cultural exchange involving traditional woodworkers from Japan and Europe. A small select group of traditional woodworkers from Germany, Sweden, Belgium and the UK will travel to Japan in August and work with alongside traditional Japanese woodworkers to build two small buildings, one a traditional tea house and the other a European timber framed structure. Details as the project develops are published on this blog.

Traditional techniques and hand tools will be used throughout the project which builds on two earlier exchanges called kesurokai (literally translated as planing together) which I attended in Germany in 2005 and 2007. Nicola is also invited as multimedia recorder and presenter of the event and is quite exited as this high level of skills exchange across language barriers will be of great relevance to her research into tacit knowledge transfer in crafts.

The European end of the project has come about through the enthusiasm and hard work of our good friend Hannes Schnelle a most talented young carpenter who spent his journeyman time working as an apprentice to Japanese master carpenter Sugimura San. Find out more about Sugimura San and his kesurokai movement to preserve craft skills here. The Japanese Kesurokai is organised by hewing master Amemiya San who I filmed at the 2005 European Kesurokai. A glance at this video will show you how different Japanese woodwork is to European and yet incredibly skilled.

For comparison this shows the European method of hewing square beams at the same event.

The two previous Kesurokai events in Germany were quite special but I am very excited to visit Japan for the first time. Traditional crafts are highly respected there and it is the home of the Mingei movement founded by Soetsu Yanagi. His book “The Unknown Craftsman, a Japanese insight into beauty” remains one of my greatest inspirations.

We are now trying to secure funding to help with our travel costs and have already been offered some kind support from the Association of Pole Lathe Turners and Green Woodworkers and Nick Gibbs editor of Living Woods Magazine.

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