Garbage and Treasure

Chance encounters between things and places


老舊的疊球、破爛的鐵籃,是垃圾還是瑰寶? A worn-out softball and a broken basket. Are they garbage or treasures?




In Tokyo, there is a secondhand shop called Furudougu Sakata. When it was first opened, it sold mainly what many would see as worthless items — defective pottery, fragments of ceramic tiles from unknown sources, old envelopes that you will not even want to touch, among others. Most of them are not creations by professional craftsmen. However, it is for this very reason that Kazumi Sakata viewed them as rare treasures. Professional craftmen are so crafty and skillful that their creations boast a consistent quality. On the contrary, one with an unskilled hand is able to produce something unexpected, something that boasts an unique appeal.

Kazumi Sakata has an eye for such things. Such a quality has left a deep and lasting impact on arts and craft aesthetics in Japan, with his fame drawing many visitors. A guest once told Sakata that what looks exceptionally attractive in his shop resembles a piece of garbage after being brought back to his living room. The guest was not upset, but burst out laughing together with Kazumi Sakata. Chance encounters also exist between things and places. An item gives off different auras when being placed at different locations.

It suddenly crosses my mind that for many years, outside the studio of my metal-crafting husband, there has always been a huge pile of rusted iron. After being battered by wind, rain and shine for a long time, such as one or two years, the rusted pieces of iron look like abandoned puppies, appearing down and desperate. When foreigners in the neighborhood walked by, they would ask, with glittering eyes, if they could take some rusted iron home, but we would always decline. They did not know that the rusted iron, which resembles rubbish at a glance, constitutes my husband’s work. Growing rust on metalware is part of the process, which usually takes two to three years until they look so much like discarded garbage. These foreign neighbors certainly deserve praise for their sharp eyes, which mange to spot rays of lights in “garbage”.