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Matsumoto Folk Craft Furniture
Source: GoJapan

Matsumoto Folk Craft Furniture stands out for its beautiful grain and unique technique

Matsumoto folk craft furniture is Japanese tradtional craft that characterized not only by the beauty of the wood grain and the warmth of the
wood, but also by the traditionally preserved “kumite tsutsute”
technique and a design that harmonizes Japanese and Western styles perfectly.
Matsumoto furniture is robust and durable, and the more you use it, the more
you will grow attached to it.

Japanese solid woods such as mizume-zakura,
tochin, oak, and zelkova are skillfully joined together, and multiple coats of
wipe lacquer give the furniture a sense of dignity and serenity. The chairs are
particularly noteworthy, modeled after the Windsor chairs from the pioneer days
in England and the United States, and are a symbol of Matsumoto Furniture.

Matsumoto Folk craft furniture
Source: Rafju Kobo

History of Matsumoto Folk Craft Furniture

Furniture making developed in the castle
town of Matsumoto

Matsumoto is blessed with abundant forests
and a dry, windy climate, making it an ideal environment for furniture making.
Around 1582, Matsumoto prospered as a castle town in the Azuchi-Momoyama
period. Furniture production was already underway by this time, and it is believed
that Matsumoto’s furniture making developed as an industry in the town.

Matsumoto became one of the leading
producers of Japanese furniture in Japan.

On September 1, 1923, the Great Kanto
Earthquake occurred. Demand for furniture increased due to reconstruction after
the earthquake, and by the end of the Taisho period (1923-1926), Matsumoto had
developed into one of the leading furniture production centers in Japan.

Encounter with the Mingei (folk craft)
movement amidst the crisis of the decline of the production area

After World War II, Matsumoto furniture,
which mainly consisted of Japanese-style furniture, declined due to a major
change to a Western lifestyle. Muneyoshi Yanagi, who was concerned about this
situation, strongly desired to restore the tradition of Matsumoto furniture
when he visited Matsumoto. In response to his wish, Ikeda Sanshiro began to
produce furniture as part of the new folk craft movement, which was the
beginning of Matsumoto Mingei Furniture. In 1948, Ikeda sought the cooperation
of Matsumoto’s Japanese furniture craftsmen, who had been unemployed due to the
postwar turmoil, and attempted to revive the traditional techniques by applying
them to Western furniture making.

From the very beginning, Ikeda focused on
chairs, particularly the Windsor chair from England and the Windsor chair from
the pioneer days of the United States as models. By continuing to make them
over and over again with repeated failures, he gradually achieved a high degree
of perfection. From this time on, Yanagi began visiting Matsumoto every summer.
Other participants in the Mingei movement, including potters Shoji Hamada and
Kanjiro Kawai, visited Matsumoto many times.

Matsumoto folk craft furniture
Source: Rafju Kobo

In 1952, the Matsumoto Mingei Furniture
Exhibition was held at Shiroki-ya, and the world-renowned printmaker Munakata
Shiko purchased Matsumoto Mingei Furniture’s first large piece, an
English-style butterfly table and spindle chair set. His guidance had a great
influence on the development of the Matsumoto Windsor chair.

This furniture has a nationwide following
of enthusiasts.

In 1969, the Matsumoto Folk Crafts
Livingware Museum was established in the suburbs of Matsumoto City. The purpose
of this facility was to train young craftsmen in Matsumoto folk craft
furniture, and to allow them to actually live with the folk craft furniture and
feel its essence in their bodies. In 1972, the Matsumoto Mingei Furniture Craft
Cooperative Association was established. In 1976, the then Minister of
International Trade and Industry designated Matsumoto Furniture as the first
national traditional craft in the furniture category in Japan. Today, Matsumoto
Mingei Furniture has more than 800 product types of regular products alone.

 Manufacturing method & Process

1. Lumber

The production of Matsumoto furniture
begins with the selection of wood. The main wood used is mizumezakura (cherry),
and other Japanese deciduous trees such as oak, horse chestnut, and zelkova are
carefully selected for use in the furniture based on the characteristics of the
wood and the beauty of the grain.

2. Natural Drying

After the selected lumber is cut into
pieces at the sawmill, it is naturally dried. The wood is dried for about 6
months in shallow piles or transplants, depending on the type and thickness of
the wood, to reduce the moisture content to 30% or less. Especially thick
timbers are naturally dried for 2, 5, or even 10 years in the field.

3. Artificial drying

Artificial drying is applied to wood that
has had its moisture content reduced to 30% or less by natural drying.
Basically, the same type of wood is stacked and dried in a dryer for 70 to 80
hours to reduce the moisture content from 30% to 8 to 9%. The wood is then
seasoned for about one month to ensure that it can withstand use as furniture.

4. Designing

Each piece of Matsumoto furniture is
hand-drawn by craftsmen. From a rough sketch, a miniature, full-scale, and
detailed drawing are carefully drawn up, and based on these drawings, a paper
pattern and mold are made. The furniture is drawn not only for its own sake,
but also for the scene in which it will be used and whether or not it will fit
in well with the daily life of the client. For important parts of the
blueprints, actual molds are sometimes made and examined.

5. Wood-trimming

After the design is finished, the
wood-turning process begins. First, the wood cutter selects the appropriate
wood for the furniture and marks it. During the cutting process, the wood is
split horizontally and vertically, in curves and widths, and even in
thicknesses and widths.

6. Kazari (ornamental metal fittings)

On the other hand, Kazari metal fittings
are processed to be attached to furniture. The raw materials, copper and iron,
are cut and shaped according to the pattern and stencil, and then carefully
rasped by hand to create the finished product. Special shapes, such as the
pulls of a drawer, are formed in the hizukuri method. Each piece is then
colored with lacquer or burnished with cotton wool, and polished with wax to
give it a brilliant shine.9.

7. Woodworking

The woodworking process is the process of
making the wood ready for actual assembly. Each part of the furniture is joined
using the appropriate assembly technique, such as the “kotsukidotsu
tsutsumi hozozon shachi-shaki-tsugi,” “koshitsuki hozon tsugiwari
kusabiuchi,” and “mae-dome-ari kumi-tsugi.

8. Assembly Process

After each part of the furniture has been
joined and assembled, it is temporarily assembled. Temporary assembly is an
important process that must be completed before the final assembly. Once the
furniture is assembled, it is not possible to make any adjustments if any
defects or defective work on the joints are discovered. Therefore, checks are
made more carefully during the temporary assembly stage. After all adjustments
have been made, the wood is glued and assembled, and the joints are paid.

9. Painting

Once the furniture has been assembled and
shaped, it is painted by a painter. There are two types of painting methods:
lacquer coating and wiped lacquer coating, but wiped lacquer coating is the
most common because of its superior durability. At least eight coats of lacquer
are applied by hand, and this time-consuming process gives the furniture a
beauty and depth of flavor that will endure many years of use.

10. Finishing

The final step is to finish the furniture.
After applying Kazari kinzoku (metal ornaments) and kuroburi (black and white
carved wood), doors, drawers, and other parts are attached to complete the
process. Then, after inspecting the functionality and making final adjustments,
the furniture is wiped clean to complete the Matsumoto furniture.

Matsumoto folk craft furniture

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