Japanese handcraft exhibition, Sfera, Kyoto

Design events spoons on table
(Image credit: press)

Ryuji Mitani is a bit of a local handcraft hero in Japan. He set up his own workshop in Matsumoto in 1981 called Persona Studio, specialising in wooden tableware, working with local craftsmen to try and keep traditional handcraft skills alive.

Soon after, he set up the Matsumoto craft fair, with a similar goal in mind to spread and promote handcraft – a small stone against the flood of mass manufacturing increasingly dominating Japanese design.

Handcrafted wooden tableware

(Image credit: press)

See more of Mitani's handcrafted designs

His latest venture is a book, ‘Handcraft in Distant Towns’ celebrating all that’s handmade in three Japanese cities (Fukui, Kyoto and Matsumoto) and Sfera in celebration of the book’s release are hosting an exhibition of the things featured.

Mitani scoured the three cities to source the finest ateliers he could find, settling on ten different craftsmen each working with traditional Japanese techniques, including paper, ceramics, wood, metal and lacquer.

With Japanese mass manufacturing being one of the most fast-developing and successful territories around, it’s all too easy to forget about traditional design heritages and move on to what’s happening in the future. It’s against this backdrop that Mitani’s work is so important, not only for keeping traditional craft alive and in the public eye, but for showing where it all began and how it has its own place in the contemporary design world too.

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.