⟨ Unexpected Welcome ⟩

Beyond Objects

Exploring the beauty of craftwork with Tadaomi Yamamoto

Words / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

三重縣伊賀市的丸柱,距離信樂車站近十公里,沒有任何公共交通工具能抵達,著實不是適合開設私人藝廊的地方,但偏偏這裡便有一家人們特地遠道而來探訪的工藝藝廊Gallery Yamahon。

10 kilometres away from Shigaraki Station sits a little town called Marubashira, a remote location inaccessible by any means of public transport that is hidden in Iga of Mie Prefecture. This is exactly the home to Gallery Yamahon, which is capable to attract visitors from faraway places regardless of its unlikely and inconvenient location.


Many art and craft gallery owners tend to consider practicality and durability the two main factors when it comes to picking their selections. Tadaomi Yamamoto however takes a more abstract approach, “it depends on whether the work moves me. Apart from its shape, I also try to imagine the atmosphere that the work can create.” In his interview with glass artist Kiyokazu Tsuda, Yamamoto said, “I tend to look for the spirituality of objects, I would like to see their actual aura. […] Take Tsuda’s works as an example, the part that is subtly missing is the truly inarticulable sensitivity of his works of delicacy. Such non-verbal touch is what makes people wanting to own a certain object.” The beauty of craftwork has a subtle power to affect its surrounding atmosphere.



The hometown of Tadaomi Yamamoto, Iga, is a city famous for its clay pot. Yamamoto grew up surrounded by clay products because of the Yamahon Clay Workshop owned by his father. He started to assist his father with the clay work from the age of 10, but did not intend to take over the family business back then. Yamamoto studied architecture in university and worked in a design firm in Tokyo for 3 years. He only returned to his hometown when his father got ill. In 2000, Yamamoto rented the old warehouse of the clay workshop from his parents, and refurbished it into his own workshop. He turned the space into a square box with pure white walls. This contemporary gallery solely recreated by Yamamoto was very unique to Japan at that time.



“When I first started my gallery in 2000, both Japan and the Western world treated art and craft with obvious partiality. Art was considered original and superior, whereas craft was seen as being in lack of personality. This white space that I created is my effort to prove these debates wrong. Work of craft has many aspects for appreciation. Be it as small as a wine cup, not only are the beauty of the rim, the sides, the inner surface and the bottom worth to be recognized, the ambience that comes along is also a main component of every individual object. With careful attention, one can slowly discover the personality of the craftsman through his or her work. This place painted in pure white is a perfect space to bring the objects’ aura to light.” Painting everything in white would however make the space overly dominating; Yamamoto therefore chose to use natural material for the ceiling and the floor, so as to create a subtle space that wouldn’t steal attention from the objects in display.

一幀照片能向你展示作品的外型,卻不能展示與它同處時的感受。山本忠臣認為互聯網太普及,使我們以為自己看了很多,但其實甚麼都沒看過。「即使你覺得放了花卉的空間很棒,但這跟實際地在家裡放在鮮花是不一樣的。在花瓶裡注水,放在桌上時嗅到花香,花卉逐漸凋謝,都是需要實際經驗,才會有所感受。」Gallery Yamahon最近為金藝師金森正起辦的個人展覽,金屬雕塑、燈飾、窗櫺、器皿等,看似隨意地擱在展場內,然而看得出每件作品的位置與距離都經過仔細的思考。金森正起創作的是工藝品,同時創造了它所存在的空間的氣氛,山本忠臣希望Gallery Yamahon能成為供鑑賞者耐心感受作品外,還有它存在的空間。

Photos can present to viewers the appearance of the object, but they cannot recreate the connection between human and that particular object. To Yamamoto, popularity of internet gives many people a false impression that they have seen enough. “Adoring flower display in a photo is not the same as having flowers at home. Pouring water into the vase, and sniffing the fragrance when putting down the vase are the necessary experience for getting the actual sensation.” Metal design artist Masaki Kanamori is currently having his solo exhibition at Gallery Yamahon. The display of metal sculpture, decorative lights, lattice window and containers may appear unplanned at first glance. The position of each exhibit and the distance in between are in fact the results of subtly careful calculation. One can indulge in the atmosphere create by these works of craft, and this is precisely the relationship Yamamoto creates between exhibits and viewers.


Atmosphere created by the same piece of work can vary along with different spaces of display; mood of the viewers, sentimentality of the users — everything can affect the beauty of the work of craft. “Zen has multiple interpretation when it’s being read by different individuals, so is work of craft. Viewers do not stay in a passive position as they are also one of the creators.”

民藝運動推手柳宗悅,一生推動「用之美」的觀念,對日本的美學文化影響至深,所說的不只是「Form follow function」的製作原則,還有年年月月使用過後而流露的美感。山本忠臣說,日本工藝家多以製作日常用品為主,且跟歐美工藝家的作品相比,造價便宜很多,是因為比起為作品定天價,他們寧願讓更多人能夠負擔得起,並使用到自己的作品。

The folk arts advocate Yanagi Sōetsu never ceased to emphasize the beauty of utilitarian objects, with his philosophy constructing a major part of Japanese aesthetics. On one hand there is the principle of “form follows function”, on the other hand he also appreciated the grace objects gain from being genuinely used. As told by Yamamoto, most of the Japanese craftsmen focus on making daily utensils, the cost is usually way more affordable than those created by European and American craftsmen. The affordable price reflects the Japanese craftsmen’s humble ambition of wishing to see more people using their creation.