Functional Japanese Woodworking
Kumiko is Japanese woodworking and is used in the making of Shoji screens, sliding doors and window coverings in traditional Japanese homes. (“Shoji” means to block out light) This artform dates back to the Nara period (710 – 794) of Japan, and some experts may say even earlier. Because Kumiko is the fitting together of pieces of wood without fasteners or glue and planed at precise angles, it is a very unique functional artform with pieces needing to be within .01mm and taking years for Tateguya (craftsman) to master the artform.
Kumiko can be used in many ways to not only add beauty to a home, furniture or art piece but each Kumiko pattern has a special meaning in Japanese culture. There are over 300 different Kumiko patterns, each one representing a unique aspect of Japanese life. For example, using the various Kumiko patterns, an artisan could tell a story, design a scene and even tell the history of ones family in artform.
I have been developing artforms and using Kumiko patterns that tells a story of our family, which is ongoing. It all began with the simple design you see above. The design is called “Asanoha”, the square hemp leaf. The Asanoha, because of it’s historical use in Japanese culture is considered to be a suitable “talisman”. As a suitable talisman it can represent something or someone of respect and dignity. Although it suitable of many representations, in this case it represents parents, my wife and myself. It was the beginning piece that gave me this inspiration.
Below find just a few of the Kumiko patterns that can used alone or combined to tell a story. The images are couresty of Simply Native Japan.
Sanjyubishi This pattern is built by fitting a set of three grids into a wooden frame. This sophisticated design can complement living spaces that have a western atmosphere and are formed from diamond shapes arranged in three tiers. This pattern represents a wish for the prosperity, long life and health of our descendants. This pattern is widely used at wedding ceremonies and in hotels.
Sakura The cherry tree is the most popular flowering plant in Japan and the cherry blossom is used widely in Kumiko and Shoji designs. It is believed that the amount of blossom on the cherry tree determines whether the harvest of a given year will be good or bad.
Mikado This Kumiko pattern seems as if it is a continuous pattern like looking into a kaleidoscope. This pattern traditionally represents eternal life and prosperity. Because of it’s strength the triangle has been considered a symbol of power and stability since ancient times.
Masu Equally-spaced vertical and horizontal parallel lines, this pattern fits well in any living space, Asian or Western. Used for room dividers and folding screens where a dimming or shading effect is required. This pattern has strength and beauty while allowing light and air to pass through. This lattice design is widely used in historical structures. The many small squares are believed to protect against evil, as well as a wish for the health and prosperity of future generations.
These are a very small example of Kumiko patterns.
Kumiko patterns can be used to decorate and provide function to many items that would be seen and used in one’s home. For example Shoji screens, window coverings, room dividers, wall art, lanterns and lights, drawer fronts, cabinet fronts, table tops, box lid covers and many more applications.
Contact me to get a quote on your Kumiko or Shoji project at firstname.lastname@example.org
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If you are interested in finding out more about Kumiko and Shoji design, construction processes and tools used in the making of, please read my article 3 Ways To Make Kumiko And Shoji In 2021.