NIHONMONODiscovering Japan [Nihon] through authentic craftsmanship [Honmono]

”Shiiko Kumagaya, the 15th Generation Morihisa Suzuki, ” Nambu Ironware

”Shiiko Kumagaya,
the 15th Generation Morihisa Suzuki, ” Nambu Ironware

A traditional family business continued for 15 generations

There is a studio with about 400 years of history that has been supporting Nambu Ironware since the days of Nambu clan. That is Morihisa Suzuki Studio in Morioka city. It was founded in 1625 and continues to create Nambu ironware with traditional skills that have been passed on through generations. The Suzuki family served the Nambu clan, making cast ironware for generations. Currently it is the 15th generation.
We visited Shiiko Kumagaya who inherited the name of 15th generation Morihisa Suzuki. She is the first woman in the family history to inherit the name, and has been gathering attention for that fact. Shiiko-san had initially been studying metal carving until her father who was the last generation Morihisa Suzuki, passed away, and she decided to inherit the family business. It was apparent that she had studied metal carving by the delicate and graceful patterns on her pieces lining the shelves. And of course the popular item is the iron kettle. We carefully observed the individual iron kettles that had just been finished.

Products with a feminine touch

The traditional iron kettle called ”hinomaru gata” is a design from the Meiji period. Compared to the current ones, it is more sturdy and thick. But the pieces made by Shiiko Kumagaya has a touch of feminine originality in the same round ”hinomaru gata”. The design with rare vertical stripes and Temari (traditional handball) pattern is surprisingly light.

Next we were guided to the studio adjacent to the gallery. The ”Machiya style” building remains as it was built in 1885. Going through the dark pathway, we arrived at the workshop. Currently at Morihisa Suzuki Studio, Shiiko-san and her son Nariaki-san who will inherit the 16th generation and other young apprentices work together.
They think about the design of the iron kettle, create the casting and pour iron into it. The whole process of making Nambu ironware is done in this studio. The skills that have been passed on through the generations can create iron kettles that are delicate or heavy duty.

Starting from overall form rather than from the patterns

At the studio, Nakata got to experience a process called ”pattern pressing” where you put the pattern on the mold. Using various size ”arare” sticks you make patterns by pressing with the stick. We could hear a big sigh from Nakata. He was disappointed that he could not make the pattern evenly. However Shiiko-san told him ”Actually, that makes it more interesting.”
Gradually the conversation centers on the theme of ”creating things”. As he was making the patterns on the mold, Nakata asked, ”For example, I am making the patterns this way now but do you start with patterns first, or do you start from general form?” When he created a product participating in the REVALUE NIPPON PROJECT, he started with the overall shape.
Most of the time, Shiiko-san also starts from the shape. The iron kettle we saw in the gallery certainly had an elegant form and atmosphere. Each era creates a shape that is comfortable for its time. We look forward to seeing what kind of products will come out of Morihisa Suzuki Studio in the future.

ACCESS

Suzuki Morihisa Studio Ltd.
1-6-7 Minami Odori, Morioka, Iwate Prefecture
URL http://www.suzukimorihisa.com/english/