Shining like baby skin
First, I want you to touch me.
The slick, silk-like surface smoothed by thousands of touches, brushstrokes, and… whetstones.
I’m speaking of the urushiware lacquered by Senro Sato.
I don’t know how many Japanese households use real urushiware in an everyday setting. I suspect the number to be fairly low, despite japanning being another term for the craft.
It has become extremely rare to be able to touch the real urushiware on display at a shop or gallery; fingerprints may leave unrecoverable stains on the surface if not treated in time. Urushiware is not that hard to maintain, as long as you wash and dry it daily – basically use it as you normally do with other dishes. But that’s not possible in these settings so customers often are politely requested to wear gloves when they appreciate the urushiware.
Senro understands it, but it’s a huge dilemma for him as he wants people to feel it. He thinks the restriction distances urushiware further away from the everyday tables in Japanese households.
One day, he was at his own exhibition held in a museum. There was a group of visually impaired children visiting as a part of the school trip. At this exhibition, they could touch his works. One of the girls took a tea saucer in her hand. When asked by her teacher how it feels, she said,
“It’s shining like baby skin.”
That broke him into tears.
Senro says he was on the verge of giving up his art, recalling the moment.
The words of the girl saved him. The pure, honest reaction to what was happening on her fingertips.
“Thank you, I was on the verge of giving up. She gave me the light to look ahead and carry on.”
Imagine that the finish you have poured your heart and soul into is not felt by anyone until it is actually bought. He may craft as a means of living, but does one solely survive by receiving money for bread?
He later sent a letter of gratitude to the museum, addressed to the girl. The tea saucer was enclosed in a package.
I would like you to touch it; feel the soft and slick surface in your hands and treasure it every day.