A New Wave to Kaga Zogan ”Mamoru Nakagawa, Engraving Artist”

A New Wave to Kaga Zogan
”Mamoru Nakagawa, Engraving Artist”

Returning to his birthplace to become an engraving artist

One technique of engraving is “zogan”. ”Zo” means molding and ”gan” refers to inlay. First, the design is molded, and then another is inlaid. This is “zogan” art.
Mamoru Nakagawa shared with us an episode of how he started as an engraving artist. He graduated from Kanazawa College of Art and had been employed working as a product designer when one day he received notice from home saying his mother was seriously ill and he needed to fly back home to Kanazawa immediately.

A breath of fresh air

He was somewhat reluctant to return since he was doing well as a designer. But he found out that they were looking for instructors in traditional crafts at Ishikawa Kogyo Experiment Site, and made a decision to return in hopes that his knowledge of design would be useful.
While helping on the family farm, he worked at the Kyogo Experiment station where he met engraver Kaishu Takahashi. He eventually apprenticed with Takahashi after observing and assisting with his work, which inspired him to work with ”zogan”.

While learning traditional ”zogan” skills from Takahashi, he also experimented with different skills, and began using different metals to bring out different colors. This added a new twist to ”Kaga zogan”.

Relaying the technique to the next generation

Nakata tried the ”zogan” technique for the first time. On a bowl made of metal alloy, a handmade chisel is used to engrave lines using a hammer. Nakagawa explained that different chisels were used to create lines of different width, and each chisel was made by Nakagawa himself. It was an extremely difficult task, as the chiseling had to be done little by little and it was very difficult to control.
”Zogan” works require high processing skills, only possible by a person who understands the characteristics of metal. Mamoru Nakagawa was designated Living National Treasure in 2004 and currently teaches at the Kanazawa College of Art as well as instructing at the Kanazawa Utatsu Kogei Kobo to nurture the next generation of artisans.


Mamoru Nakagawa, Engraver
Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture