Trying to create anything. Visit the atelier of the wood carving artist “Umano Hanamuke” (Part 1)

STORY | 2024/02/16

There are people who create a sense of abundance with just their bodies.

If I could see a god or a wizard, I would definitely see something like this on their backs. You can see it, just faintly.

It was the day after the first spring breeze in Tokyo. I watch the streets of Kibi go by from the window of Yuki's car. Although it is narrow, a river flows with a sense of dynamism. The occasional rays of sunlight filtered through the creamy green winter trees, illuminating the mountainous terrain like meteors, and I couldn't help but admire them. I think it's like watching a natural planetarium during the day.

Thinking it must be around here, Yuki parked her car and went looking for a house. As she was looking around, a milk bread-colored dog flew through the air. I have only ever lived with cats and goldfish as non-human animals, so I was astonished to see a dog, which I later learned was named Kulfi, jump around with all his might, as if his whole body was a spring. The person with Kulfi is wood carver Yuri Kanzaki, also known as ``Uma no Hanamuke,'' who created the buttons for YUKI FUJISAWA's 2024 Aran sweater.

The phrase ``Uma-no-hanamuke'' has the meaning of sending someone off on a journey by giving them gifts and having a feast to celebrate their future. Yuki's creative journey may be indistinguishable from a journey. From inside the car, Masumi and I watched as Yuri and Culphy welcomed Yuki's arrival with their bodies dancing in front of each other. That's how we arrived at Yuri's house.

Yuri lives alone in her home/atelier in the mountains with her husband, Daisuke Uetsuki, who also works with wood, and Culphy. Open the low wooden fence and let the path lead you into the garden. ``Is this red thing a southern sky?'' ``Yes, it's a southern sky.'' ``What about those bright berries that are falling in abundance on the ground?'' ``Those are karin.'' Many questions come to mind, such as this and that.

I remember one memory. My paternal grandparents' house had persimmon and chestnut trees in the garden, and they also grew vegetables in the field. However, when I was a child, I was so fascinated by urban things that I thought I understood the garden as a ``familiar landscape'' and did not try to get to know it deeply.

How much courage was required to maintain gardens and fields, and how much down-to-earth wisdom supported the activities of my grandmother, who placed the weather and the condition of plants at the center of her life. . I still don't know the details. However, I wish I had been able to convey my respect for my grandmother, who survived through wisdom beyond my knowledge, while I still could.

Once you start being drawn to such thoughts, there is no end to it. However, I believe that a researcher once said something like, ``Even if you are looking at the scenery outside the window, about half of the time you are thinking about something else.'' Being alive is always a moment-by-moment accumulation of phenomena in which I and the world intermingle.

The main building, a small building for the dining room and kitchen, and a hut used as an atelier are all built one after another. During the day, when the sun's rays warm your body properly, or at night, when the sounds of insects and the light of the stars take center stage in the theater, you can come here to eat something light or enjoy a cup of tea or alcohol. I wonder. The garden chairs and garden table that I imagined were like that, with ivy covering them like a roof. In fact, it was a few hours later that I felt dizzy when I learned that kiwi had been growing here until the other day.

“Shall we have some food?”

Yuri-san calls out to me, and I come to a small building with a kitchen and dining table. Of course, along with Kulfi. Lunch time was something I was really looking forward to.


Yuki-san, Masumi-san, and I each let out a sigh. For some reason, a beautiful hand-carved spoon that reminds me of the day I was born, paintings of rocks and cows that remind me of distant countries and eras, specimens of butterflies, and when I wake up and hear, ``This is one country,'' I understand. Seashells and ores with intricate patterns that would make you want to die, ceramic dolls with adorable expressions that make you think humans aren't bad either...

The light floral pattern of the wallpaper gives the room a soft impression, and the interior is filled with objects collected from all over the world as well as things that Yuri and her colleagues have made with their own hands. It's been a while, but it looks strangely clear. My heart beats as I visit this place for the first time, feeling the spirit of never letting go of choosing the things that really move my heart, or the things that might move me.

Creating a space of our own by painstakingly collecting old objects that look like they will fly away, things that are somewhat suspicious and that retain the signs of living things, and things that resemble dreams and visions is a process of careful delicacy and delicacy. This cannot be done without boldness and flexibility.

The meal consisted of glacéed carrots with mascarpone cheese, celery and pork soup with the crunchy texture of beans, quiche, and bread I bought at a bakery in Kibi. And steam. In this room, I could see the steam and couldn't get it out of my mind. Steam when pouring soup onto a plate. Steam rising in front of itadakimasu. Steam when boiling water.

``It's warm in many ways,'' Yuki said, but in this space I quickly realized that deliciousness and warmth cannot be measured by taste or temperature alone. The hot air conditioner warms your body, but the steam also brings with it the "warmth" from your memories. It warms your heart.

There is a tanka by Hiroshi Homura that says, ``In dreams, shining and speaking are the same thing. Let's meet.'' When you feel warmth in your eyes and hear a voice through the touch of your embrace, My body feels happy and I feel alive. The words that even the senses are not a division of labor suddenly came to mind, and I kept thinking about them throughout my stay with Yuri.

After eating, we went for a walk around Kibi with our stomachs full. We all wore YUKI FUJISAWA Aran sweaters and balaclavas, and we looked like characters from a fairy tale or even a play, and it was hilarious and we laughed. Is it too much of a match? I decided not to put on my balaclava, but the charm of that scene burned with me, and I'm sure I'll never forget this ordinary moment like a running lantern. Donegal Yarns' Aran sweater yarn is made with a mixture of nep in various colors, so it goes well with any landscape and any outfit, and the sparkle of the foil looks like an angel's wings that can fly up to the cloudy sky.

As I walk, I watch the river flow and pick up branches that don't catch my eye when walking on concrete. The trees were set up like a portable shrine, so I asked, ``What's that?'' Yuri told me, ``My neighbor grows shiitake mushrooms.''

I would later learn that this method was called ``log cultivation,'' but the way Shiitake mushrooms were grown for the first time was so wild, majestic, and cool. It may have been a day to celebrate the greatness of shiitake mushrooms and to respect them a lot. For stews, pots, and soup stock. Even though I am indebted to shiitake mushrooms every day, I have never tried to find out how they are growing, which makes me think about how helpless I am, and the gap between the process of making them and the act of consuming them. .

``It's a little dark in this area because it's between the mountains, so there's no sunlight,'' Yuri told me, and it was a chilly day that still had the smell of winter. Invite me to the atelier. The studio, which has large windows and an easy-to-use space that feels connected to the outside world, was originally a dilapidated shed, but they repaired it themselves, put in glass, painted it white, and brought it back to life.

A work desk facing the window. There were tools such as chisels, chisels, and brushes of varying sizes and shapes, as well as books and other materials related to vintage patterns, designs, and symbols. Seashells are lined up by the window, and I think it's nice to line up important things on the border between outside and inside. A turtle, an angel, a human, a spoon, a wooden mold, a dog that looks like Kulfi...half-finished works carved out of wood are waiting to be brought to life here and there in the atelier.

``Keep the power to create within yourself.'' Continued to “Going to the atelier of the wood carving artist “Umano Hanamuke” (Part 2)”

Words: Yume Nomura

Photo: Masumi Ishida