Handmade in Japan by Master 廣田洋子 - Yoko Hirota
Hirota Urushi is the Japanese traditional Urushi arts hand-crafted by master Hirota Yoko (廣田洋子). Master Hirota's artworks are unique in designs and techniques which are hard to find among common Urushi lacquerwares.
Main Techniques in Hirota Art
There are 4 main techniques normally used in master Hirota's art: 櫛目堆漆塗 (Kushime Tsuishitsu Nuri) - 金箔 (Kinpaku) - 石目堆漆塗 (Ishime Tsuishitsu Nuri) - 金彩ひび塗 (Kinsai Hibi Nuri).
櫛目堆漆塗 KUSHIME TSUISHITSU NURI
Kushime (櫛目) is the act of combing to create a pattern for artistic purposes such as pottery. Tsuishitsu Nuri (堆漆塗) is Master Hirota's original Urushi technique where multiple layers of Urushi that is combined with egg white or Ranpaku (卵白) and applied thickly using special flat tool.
Kinpaku is the technique of laying thin gold leaves on art objects, writing tools, tableware, and religious objects to refine and polish the appearance. The most challenging part is ensuring the sheet must adhered following the surface, whether it's flat or surved depending on the fountain pen shape.
KINSAI HIBI NURI
"Hibi" in English is translated as 'crack'. Master Hirota found the fractured aesthetic through repeated trial and error. The secret to making the black urushi cracked and revealing the gold is by incorporating egg white or Ranpaku (卵白) to create a unique yet artistic trait.
Ishime Tsuishitsu Nuri Kinma
This technique is using multiple layers of Urushi. The surface is carved to create hollows that resemble rock perforations. A different color of Urushi is filled into the hollow and finally polished to make the surface flat.
Fountain pens from Hirota collection are handmade one by one and require years to create.
Therefore, each of them is only available as few as one piece each time.
Hirota Kinpaku Maki-e
A Symphony of Flora: Pen's Artistic Story
What makes the pen special
Master Hirota's artisan fountain pen design is a testament to meticulous craftsmanship and unwavering attention to detail. In her latest creation, she weaves a narrative of storytelling through meticulously hand-drawn Maki-e, artfully depicting the enchanting beauty of flora.
Embracing Nature's Imperfections
In the realm of pen craftsmanship, every stroke bears the discerning touch of Master Hirota. Her drawing captures botanical wonders with a meticulous eye for detail. When exploring the intricate world of Maki-e, one cannot help but notice the delicate nuances: overlapping leaves, tender sprouts, moss on tree bark, even leaves nibbled by caterpillars - no minuscule element escapes her gaze.
While some may assume that only flawlessly pristine florals meet her exacting standards, Master Hirota perceives perfection through imperfection, finding a beauty that resonates with nature's authenticity.
Shiro no ume (The White Plum flower)
In Japanese literature, the white plum flower, known as "Shiro no ume," symbolizes the beginning of life's journey. Its name, Ume, closely resembles the Japanese verb "Umu," meaning "to be born." As spring unfolds, the Ume flower emerges among the first blossoms, signaling hope and renewal.
Master Hirota eloquently captures the essence of the Ume flower, likening it to a person of remarkable tenacity. Just like the Plum tree endures the shivering winter and gusts of cold wind, the Ume flower persists, eventually blooming with exquisite elegance.
Through the harshness of winter, the Ume flower stands resolute, embodying the strength to overcome adversity. Its unwavering spirit becomes a testament to resilience, inspiring us to navigate life's challenges with grace and fortitude.
In witnessing the Ume's journey, we glean a profound lesson: the importance of enduring with unwavering resolve, never losing sight of the beauty that awaits beyond the hardships. From the depths of wintry trials, emerges a soul that has been shaped, strengthened, and enriched, embracing life with a newfound wisdom.
The very captivating feature of Ivy is its young leaves always reach upwards, while the older leaves gracefully cascade downwards. Ivy, renowned for its resilience, embodies an unwavering spirit as its leaves persistently grow and expand, defying withering. The young leaves of ivy always reach upwards, while the older leaves gracefully cascade downwards.
In this life, it is of paramount importance to constantly improve oneself, regardless of the circumstances. Just like the Ivy plant that ceaselessly seeks opportunities to grow, Master Hirota found inspiration in its ability to adapt and flourish, even in the most challenging environments.
By incorporating the Ivy design into her fountain pen, she imparts a profound message. It serves as a poignant reminder that growth and personal development should be pursued relentlessly, overcoming obstacles with unwavering determination. The Ivy's journey becomes a powerful metaphor for the human spirit's unyielding quest for self-improvement and resilience in the face of adversity.
Manryou (Christmas Berry)
Japanese people hold the Manryou plant in high regard, considering it a virtuous and auspicious plant. The name "Manryou" stems from the Japanese word "Man," meaning ten thousand. This name signifies the plant's exceptional beauty and value, as it is believed to surpass the Senryo plant, which is already considered quite stunning. Manryou's allure is said to be worth tens of thousands of dollars, symbolizing its unparalleled magnificence.
Master Hirota, with her keen eye for detail and personal touch, delicately incorporates a subtle branch of Manryou into her pen design. This small yet significant addition serves to depict the humble beginnings of the Manryou plant before it matures into undeniable charm. It represents the journey of growth and transformation, where even the most unassuming beginnings can blossom into extraordinary beauty.
Through the inclusion of the Manryou branch, Master Hirota pays homage to the plant's inherent grace and showcases its potential to captivate and enchant. The pen becomes not just a tool of writing but also a vessel for celebrating the subtle yet profound beauty found in the natural world.
As Master Hirota observes the cyclical nature of the Camellia flower in her garden, she reflects on its unique characteristics and imparts her wisdom. She explains that the Tsubaki flower, even in its withered state, possesses an unwavering determination. The Tsubaki, she elaborates, chooses to wither when it decides to and remains in full bloom when it so desires. This ability to assert its own lifecycle showcases the flower's innate autonomy and self-awareness.
The excellence of the Tsubaki is unassuming, marked by its noble and dignified appearance, yet it remains humble in its demeanor. This essence is beautifully captured by the Japanese saying "Hikaemena Subarashisa" (控えめな素晴らしさ), which encapsulates the concept of low-key excellence. The Camellia flower epitomizes this notion, exuding magnificence without ostentation. In Master Hirota's Kinpaku Maki-e fountain pen, the beauty of the Tsubaki is immortalized. The design embodies the qualities of humility, determination, and unpretentious elegance that the Camellia flower embodies. Through the intricacies of the Maki-e technique, the pen serves as a tangible representation of the Tsubaki's essence, capturing its inherent grace and understated allure.
With every stroke of the pen, the essence of the Tsubaki flower is brought to life, allowing the beholder to experience its unique blend of determination, unpretentious beauty, and humble nobility.
The whole body of the pen is covered with gold leaf sheet or Kinpaku with more than one layer. Therefore, a delicate care for the body is highly recommended.
Like every Urushi pen, Hirota Kinpaku Maki-e pens must be stored on the low humidity environment and must be refrained from the long exposure of direct sunlight to protect its color.
Master Hirota herself adopted the inspiration from the spirit of Japanese Tea Ceremony, which finding the "Wabi" which means the imperfections as the perfection. The notion which centered on optimizing until the smallest particle of tea leaves to the essence without letting it into waste. Master Hirota got her eyes on picking the sublime world of "Wabi" in her garden and pour the inspiration into her artwork.
About Master Yoko Hirota
With a great interest in traditional handmade crafts since elementary school, master Hirota decided to choose this path and developed a strong passion for Japanese Urushi-making traditions. Master Hirota now has more than 30 years of hands-on experience in making Urushi and Maki-e.
Hirota's artwork focus on the stylish minimalism and durability of the objects. Either it's a pair of chopsticks that serve everyday meals or it's an ornament used in the palace, it must last long and express the aesthetics of Japan's art.
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