On his biography page, the goldsmith Ren Nakane added many photos of his hiking trips in various Japanese mountains, such as the snow-covered Mount Shirouma in Nagano Prefecture, Yamanashi’s Mount Aka sitting in the cloud, Mount Tanigawa in Gunma Prefecture under the sunset. He has a passion for mountains, nature, and animals. Step by step, he conquers mountain after mountain; and with patience, he hammers on the metal provided by the nature, and turn it into various types of homewares and decorations. In this age where laser-cut and 3D-printing prevail, he still holds a firm belief that handicraft gives products an actual touch which would, in turn, enrich people’s lives.
Born in 1989 in Shiga Prefecture, Nakane went to Tokyo alone at the age of 20 and worked different mini-jobs, he once worked with a theatre set production team. “The scale was too massive for me. I am more keen on making small things. Meanwhile, a studio I worked for happened to be looking for a jewelry craftsman, so I just threw in my application.” That studio belongs to a brand called ICHI that aims at sustaining traditional handicrafts by applying the techniques onto modern housewares. The hand-hammered gold wedding ring is one of their works. At the start, Nakane knew nothing about metal work and had to learn everything from scratch. After several years, he was assigned to manage the department of gold-beating. Despite the opportunity he was given, Nakane began to have doubts about his career path and thought it should be time to set up his own business. He was, however, also hoping to further acquire more techniques from other goldsmith studios.
中根嶺與他的伙伴Kai把這空間命名為Polar Sta。Polar Sta位於與金閣寺相距十分鐘路程的小街內，空間的正面是一整面的玻璃窗，每個營業天都能看到中根嶺坐在近正門處，埋首在他小小的工房裡。以往他只製作首飾及婚介，而在自己的工房裡，他開始製作其他生活道具。
“I was chatting with this friend Kai from Kyoto the other day. He said he found a vacant house and wanted to see if we could have some collaboration. Although I was hesitating, I finally decided to give it a try.” Unfortunately, his determination did not reward him with an easy start. It is never a painless work to turn a completely empty house into a space that can accommodate a studio, an exhibition room, a cafe and a shop. He ended up spending two and a half years to finish setting up the space, as he basically did everything himself — from laying down the flooring, painting the wall to setting up the display racks, and even the bricks and tiles. Upon completion, he finally got his own entity. By that time, he was only 24 years old.
Nakane and his partner, Kai, named the space Polar Sta, which is situated in a small alley only ten minutes away from Kinkaku-ji. Walking past the storefront during the work days, you can easily spot Nakane focusing on his work behind the glass window. While he used to make only jewelry and wedding rings, he began to make other homeware and utensils after setting up his studio.
“Wedding rings and jewelry are only used on special occasions, but objects like cutlery and lamp shades are what’s truly connected to our everyday life. I also try to create works purely for my personal satisfaction.” The first time he joined a sculpture class was back in his high school days. When it comes to sculpturing things he liked, animals instantly came to his mind, and that was how he made his first deer sculpture. Folding copper sheet into a deer shape is rather similar to folding with cardboard. However, unlike paper, metal can expand. Nakane, therefore, spent quite some effort in figuring out the proper way to hammer and bend the copper sheet. The deer he makes does not have antlers; the antlers are simply sticks he randomly collected. Sometimes he would change the broken stick with another one, which gives his deer a different appearance.
Making animals out of copper sheet was a very demanding task. The price was high as a result. Mainly for this reason, Ren Nakane shifted from copper sheet to brass sheet. Nakane likes brass partly because it is easier to handle, and also for how its color changes with age. In his studio hangs a whale lampshade, a swallow, a polar bear and some other creatures. These are all works that he made for no particular reason except for lightening the heart of the viewers.
The pendant Nakane exclusively made for OBSCURA brought an additional member — a penguin — to the animal crew. It is a lovely scene seeing a penguin, a swallow and a whale gathering in the air. When asked about the concept behind this design, he looked a little shy, smiled and said, “I simply found it delightful if animals from the sea, on the land and in the sky could all fly together.” Free from any profound thoughts, such happiness is simple and real.