Textbook of Mokume Gane – a review

For once a fittings book that is informative, in English and neither expensive nor hard to get. In fact, you can save yourself some time by skipping my review and just going to Amazon right now and ordering it for $22 to have it in your hands for a weekend read.

This is a 175 page paperback by modern mokume master Takahashi Masaki published in 2018. This is not a style of fittings that I had a particular interest in, but after reading Takahashi I keep coming back to them. This is not a book only about fittings, but covers all aspects of guribori and mokume. It goes back to Northern Song dynasty carved lacquer work, Ming and Qing examples and later sagemono. There are mokume pipe fittings, yatate, bowls, etc., which became staple products for metalworkers at and after the end of the Edo period.

There are illustrations and descriptions of about 20 each of guribori and mokume tsuba, and about the same of fuchikashira, kozuka and other fittings including a few koshirae and one each of mokume and guribori menuki.

Guribori fittings used to be readily available at US sword shows but have become rather scarce in recent years. I hadn’t given them much attention, but Mr. Takahashi has and there is quite a lot there to study.

Many mokume tsuba have gone to the west, and Takahashi has traveled extensively to study and document examples in European and American museums. The catalog he has created with this book would be a must have if it stopped there, but it’s only his starting point. He sets out to describe and reproduce methods that could have been used to create historical pieces.

He goes into detail about the extremely complex layering and twisting process behind the creation of the famous early mokume kozuka by Shoami Denbei.

And provides a sequence of process photos in recreating Denbei’s famous guribori tsuba:

Again, this is not all. There are histories and genealogies of the makers of these fittings (of which Mr. Takahashi is a part) and articles by several guest authors on the techniques behind creating the mokume billets in a variety of materials including recipes for pre-cleaning, fusion processes and patination.

The book ends with a chapter on jewelry which is what sustains mokume production in both Japan and the west these days. Checking the websites of several of the contributors, it seems to have boiled down primarily to wedding rings with none of the interesting pieces illustrated in the Mokume Textbook on display. That makes sense from a business perspective.

I ran across a passing reference to this book online and figured that it would be unavailable or at least difficult to get. I checked Amazon thinking that the chance of it being there would be slim to none, but there it was. The research and devotion to the art of mokume that Takahashi-san has is unequaled and having it in such a well done and accessible book is fantastic. Go get it.

3 thoughts on “Textbook of Mokume Gane – a review”

  1. Hi Jim..

    Gosh your reservoir is deep!!! Great article and we will get the book. I do not have any tsuba with the mokume but I sure do like it especially when done really well….

    Got my ticket for SF.. this time I am leaving Sunday aft. it will be a long four days… I did not know that Carol had scheduled eye surgery for the first … but my son is here.. otherwise I would not be coming… it is a morning procedure .. but still any procedure is not to be trifled with…

    Just reading Ghand’s letters to Hitler… talking of the British heel that has enslaved 20 percent of the earth… he pleads with him to stop the war… Be good, Stuart

    ________________________________

    Like

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