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My adventures (so far) with Japanese Lanterns.

Haraguma-Kuruma Crafts - Blog #1 Lets talk lanterns!


Welcome to my site!

I thought that my first blog for my new business should give you an idea why I wanted to share my Japanese lamp creations (amongst many other crafts I have dabbled in) with the folks out there.

I’ve had a deep interest in Japanese crafts and aesthetics, the purposeful attention to detail and careful delicate design, for a very long time. Since a kid in fact. I think it may have begun with watching Shogun back in the late seventies – I was attracted to the simple dwellings, the crazy ornate temples, amazing clothing, the careful use of wood for everything, those shoji screens, those masks (!), and of course amazingly artful but functional Samurai armor. Everything about it was so attractive.

It wasn’t until I met a Japanese trained carpenter, named Russ, that my interest to actually make anything remotely resembling Japanese took root. This fellow ran a Japanese antiques store near Vancouver, BC. He and his business partner would travel to Japan and buy up a shipping container of antiques from auctions, some in good condition, some not so much. when the antiques finally made it to Vancouver via shipping container, Russ would live in the basement of the business repairing and re-finishing the damaged antiques, trying as much as he could to keep them close to authentic. He had a stockpile of Japanese wood (hard to get in North America!), washi (paper) and tubs of antique fixtures and hardware.

Occasionally I was taught how to use traditional carpentry tools – saws, kanna (Japanese hand planes), and the care and proper use of those amazing Japanese chisels. Russ started me out learning how to make simple shoji screens by hand.  He had a side hustle with pal Tim who owned a rare (for the west coast) custom shoji making shop. Scrap ends of yellow cedar rails and kumiko (those thin bits in shoji screen) would show up in buckets and buckets. All the more to practice with.

Japanese lantern standing next to Japanese furniture
One of my early Japanese lamps, made with Russ' instructions - a traditional Japanese Floor Lamp

Russ had told me that in his earlier years after returning from Japan he would make quite a lot of custom Japanese furniture, in Ontario at first then here in BC, especially around Vancouver. I would drive around with him and he’d point at various houses or businesses, ‘you seen those screens? I made those – you see that sushi place? I made the live edge counters and stools’, and on and on. (Everything you look at in the sushi restaurant Octopus’ Garden Restaurant on Cornwall Ave in Kitsilano, Vancouver, is his handiwork.)

He had made many, many Kumiko style lamps over the years, and proceeded to show me how to do the same, saying I could sell these myself. I was a little too green to have the confidence to make a sell at that point in my life, besides I didn’t have the space and tools to do so, and only practiced in the shop basement occasionally.

a Japanese paper lantern with an old dark wooden loom bobbin for a base
Another early design of mine using a Japanese antique old textiles bobbin. Wrapped in plasticized washi with some decorative paper glued the base.

Flash forward 15 years and all that has come to pass. I’ve visited Japan twice now, once to be on a television program there (a tale for another blog entry), and visited many temples, old buildings and castles, making notes on the décor and furniture. Now I have a small back-alley woodshop, and quite a few tools to do the job. I use mostly hand tools for the fine details, but to speed up creating there are a few power tools used. Time is the most valuable thing to manage these days, as like most I have a day job and transit that chews up much of it. And so, I try to be as efficient as possible with what I make, but try very hard to not sacrifice quality. The principle of Wabi Sabi is my mantra – as I have only so much bandwidth for dedicating to perfection. (And time, which plays into the Wabi Sabi concept of impermanence in all things .) Besides, I truly enjoy seeing the grain of the wood, all the knots and the ‘makers mark’ in Japanese hand made crafts.

And so, this is partially why I came to creating and selling my work. I very much enjoy sharing the charming design and calm practicality of a Japanese Lantern.

I hope you enjoy these designs, and please contact me with any questions or comments.


aka justystarz

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