We are already in the fourth year of the reign of the present Emperor and I am proud to have been invited to produce two items—Kazashi (paulownia and pine decorations to be worn in a headdress) and a Suhama (the silver stand to hold them)—for the enthronement ceremony and the festival celebrating his succession. I felt highly motivated at the thought of being involved in the production of these items that would go down in Japanese cultural history, and I remember having a fascinating discussion with Ms. Aono of the Ippodo Gallery concerning art-craft works connected with the Imperial family. It was this that led me to create the bonbonniere (small ornate boxes) seen here.
My metalwork consists of producing patterned inlays or using a hammer to beat out various forms, etc., developing new combinations of techniques, bringing out my own sensitivity and listening to my materials as I use my personal skills to produce the work. Using the same techniques, I visualized creating bonbonnieres in gold and silver.
I wonder whether my works succeed in embodying my aspirations, but I hope that you are all able to experience something when you see them.
I first visited Professor Maeda Hirotomi’s laboratory at Tokyo University of the Arts in Ueno Park when I commissioned him to create a reliquary for remains of the priest, Shinran, who founded the Jōdo Shin sect of Pure Land Buddhism.
Entering the laboratory is like stepping into a toolbox from the past—the walls are lined with hammers, dollies, chisels, etc., all the tools necessary for chasing and forging metal, together with stocks of various metals, mineral ore for reference and a collection of art and craftworks.
He seems very happy, surrounded by these things that he loves, using his sensitivity and creativity to preserve tradition while simultaneously experimenting in new forms of expression through metalwork.
The Sword Abolishment Edict of 1876 resulted in the disappearance of demand for the various sword fittings; the number of craftspeople creating metalwork items gradually decreased with the times until today, many Japanese are unaware of the existence of this field.
Working in contemporary society, Maeda’s works have received numerous awards, shining brightly as they open the door on a new future of metalworking. He produced items for the current Emperor’s enthronement ceremony as well as Shinran’s reliquary, mentioned above, and there can be no doubt that his works will be passed down as historic treasures for hundreds of years to come.
For his solo exhibition at the Ippodo Gallery, he has created several small containers of happiness, known as bonbonnières, in gold and silver. Bonbonnières are small confectionary boxes that are presented by the Imperial Family as souvenirs on auspicious occasions.
Maeda Hirotomi created these small containers with their graceful forms in that toolbox-like laboratory, filling these small boxes with love and hope…