The expressionless animals

The emotionally rich metal




Only ten minutes walking distance away from Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto stands Polarsta, a shop that combines the concept of craft store and workshop. The shop is owned by the craftsman Ren Nakane. Ren, which means mountain ridge, is a word rarely picked for Japanese names; however intriguingly, the word adequately describes the prudent quality of Nakane’s work. Among the many materials for craftwork, Nakane finds metal goes the best with his approach. While clay is very soft and can be easily ruined, metal is a material that allows a slower and subtler transformation. In contrast to the shiny polish, a natural roughness is the quality that Nakane is fond of. He tends to leave the surface as rough as rock or coral reef when making earrings, bracelets and other accessories.

Ren Nakane is now only 28 years old. Upon graduating from a high school specializing in arts and craft education in Kyoto, Nakane relocated to Tokyo and started working in a company that produces accessories. From this point on, Nakane has not stepped out of the field of crafting accessories. After establishing his own brand a few years ago, Nakane started to create non-commercial objects that are for pure personal interest. This is the story of the metal animals as shown in the picture. The metal animals he made are similar to origami — metal sheets are folded into the shape of animals before ears or horns are being attached. In fact, origami is always the first step when Nakane tries to create a new metal animal. He first tests the shapes using paper before replicating with metal sheet. Metal sheet can be easily lengthened when being hammered; therefore folding with metal sheet is never as predictable as making origami out of paper. Multiple trials are often needed for Nakane to transform a metal sheet into the shape he has in mind.

Ren Nakane seldom puts eyes on his metal animals, he said with a smile on his face, “The animals will inevitably show a facial expression once eyes are added to their face.” Bearing no facial expression can perhaps show the real spirit of his metal animals, because this allows me to see the expression of metal as material more clearly.