Friday, 19 October 2012

Arigato Japan! MoDA 'Katagami Style' objects come home

Back in March we mentioned ten objects from MoDA's collection were on their way to Japan for Katagami Style: an exhibition about a type of Japanese paper stencil (Katagami) and the profound influence it had on Western decorative arts from the mid-nineteenth century.

Katagami Style was organised by Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, Tokyo and Nikkei Inc. It was shown in three venues: Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum in Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto and Mie Prefectural Art Museum in Tsu-shi. Visitor numbers and Twitter comments testify to how well the exhibition was received over the six months. Last week it finally came to a close and I flew to Tsu to bring the loaned MoDA objects home.

Moving crates beside some Silver Studio designs in the Mie Prefectural Art Museum as Katagami Style prepares to come down (Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture)
Precious items from a range of international collections were included in Katagami Style. As I walked up the hill to Mie Prefectural Art Museum I wondered how such a complicated exhibition was to be dismantled. This question was answered in the efficiency and skill of the technicians and conservators working in the gallery. In no time, everything was checked and I was left with several days in Tokyo awaiting the flight home to London.

Maybe it was a case of ''Katagami on the brain' but in the last few days exploring Tokyo,  I spotted numerous references to the stencil art. It's clear Katagami has an enduring influence on Japanese design. This was actually something they touched on in the exhibition by displaying Unimo Sushi shop's laser etched sushi.

Wall panels in the Tokyo station subway tunnels (MoDA)

On my last day, I met Miya Suwa, who is a designer. Miya had seen Katagami Style when it was on in Tokyo, after finding out about it through an iphone app called 'Museum Cafe' which showcases the latest exhibitions in the city. She said, 'The exhibition was good for my work, for getting inspiration for what I do next: I'm always looking for my style'.

Miya took me along to see the Interior Lifestyle Living Trade Fair which showcases current Japanese designers working on products for the home. Again, I couldn't help spotting Katagami influences as we walked into the trade hall, for example some ceramics by Miyama with a patterned design inspired by Kimono (a traditional Japanese garment which was decorated using Katagami stencils) and Yuugi Isegata which uses traditional Katagami designs and enlarges them for furnishing fabrics.

Homeware by Miyama (MoDA)
Furnishing fabrics by Yuugi (MoDA)
If you're interested in seeing the Katagami stencils in MoDA's collection, you are welcome to book a visit to the study room (I'll be back next week!).  Until then, I'll sign off with a Tokyo travel recommendation: the Japanese Folk Craft Museum is a treat, nestled off the main tourist route and well worth a visit.

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