Tsubame-tsuiki Bronze Ware

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Tsubame-tsuiki bronze ware is a traditional artifact that is created using an extremely complex forging technique, which can be summarized as the hammering of a plate of bronze in a wide variety of ways. This will turn it into the shapes of various accessories such as kettles, flower vases and plateware.

While it might seem a great wonder that one plate of metal can be turned into the shape of an almost round object, this is what makes a Tsubame-tsuiki bronze ware artisan a master of his craft. On the inner side of a bronze plate, one connects an iron stick called “Toriguchi” whose pointed end can come in hundred different kinds of shapes. When the plate is beaten from the outside with a hammer (of which there are hundred types as well), it eventually changes into a 3-dimensional shape. The vibration that is given to the bronze plate creates some unique effects, depending on the shapes of “Toriguchi” and hammers and how the plate is beaten; It can then be stretched or even shrunk. This is the hardest part of its production process, and it would take 20 to 30 years for one artisan to be able to handle the entire process on his/her own.

The metal-processing industry in Tsubame city, Niigata prefecture originated from the making of Japanese nails as a side business for farmers in the beginning of the 17th century. With the convenience of the near Yahiko mountain being a copper mine, many variety of products connected fine skills and creativity came to prominence. These included bronze ware, pipe, file, and yatate (portable writing utensils with a brush and an ink bottle).

During the 18th century, a technique called “Tsuiki” was brought by artisans from the area which covers the current Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. It enables one to make kettles, flower vases or plateware without any joint lines by beating out one bronze plate repeatedly. This was the start of Tsubame-tsuki bronze ware, leading to what has now become a world-famous craft. It has the practicality and artistry of traditional craftwork created by highly-skilled artisans and its luster more comes out after repeated use.

In addition to traditional everyday items, Tsubame-tsuiki bronze ware is now available in the form of new product designs which have never been seen before, such as Western plates or wine coolers, receiving high acclaim in and out of the country. It has been used as plateware, for instance, in a world-famous French restaurant and has been featured in collaborations with well-known brands’ new products, which has served the purpose of spreading traditional Japanese craftwork out to the rest of the world.

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