KOGEI & Me

Hiroaki Usui / Ryeonsu Choi

臼井浩明・崔錬秀

When it is finely assembled, the wood becomes attached to one another.

At a workshop in the countryside the sunlight filters through the window casting it with a soft glow. Two men can be seen working intently on the wood in front of them. Both are graduates from the same traditional crafts university in Kyoto. They are planing the wood to ascertain its characteristics to prepare it for kumiko (lattice). In woodwork, besides having knowledge of the tools such as the plane and the saw, “let the tool tell you” how it should be used, advises the senior Mr. Usui to his junior Mr. Choi. After graduating from university, Mr. Usui who is from Hyogo prefecture had taken up a regular job. However, he had always wanted to work with his hands and so he ventured into the woodworking industry. He started off working as a wood joiner for companies related to tea ceremonies and furniture. At the same time, he was creating original works of his own. Subsequently, he encountered Kuroda Kobo a professional company specializing in joinery and in 2015 he succeeded as the third generation and became the president of the company. Mr. Choi is from Kanagawa prefecture. He had aspired to be an artisan and he became a disciple of Mr. Usui who was his senior from the same university. A kumiko is an intricate and delicate craft as it involves assembling wooden parts without the use of nails. It is like weaving with wood. If the measurement is off by just a little, the end product will not be perfect. “When it is finely assembled, the wood becomes attached to one another”. The eyes of the two craftmen are full of joy.

きれいに組めば、木が吸いつく

田園のやわらかな日差しが差し込む工房で、ただひたすらに木に向き合う二人がいる。京都伝統工芸大学校の先輩・後輩である臼井さんと崔さん。組子に使う木の性格を確かめるように、木の表面に鉋を滑らせていく。木工の仕事は、鉋や鋸などの道具を理解することが、仕事の第一歩だ。「道具に教えてもらえ」とは、臼井さんが崔さんに技術を伝えるコツの一つである。兵庫県出身の臼井さんは、大学卒業後に一般企業に就職するが、手に職をと思い、木工の世界に飛び込んだ。京都で茶道指物や調度指物などの修行や木工作家としての活動を経て、独立。建具製造が専門の黒田工房と出会い、2015年に3代目として受け継いだ。崔さんは、神奈川県出身。職人を目指し、専門学校の先輩であった臼井さんの元に弟子入りをした。組子とは、釘を一切使わず、編むように木を組んでいく繊細な木工細工だ。寸分の狂いが全体に響く。「きれいに組めば、木が吸いつくんです」。そう話す二人の目は、道を極める職人としての喜びに溢れていた。

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