⟨ Craft ⟩

The expressionless animals

The emotionally rich metal

Words & Photography / Ron Lam
離京都金閣寺十分鐘路程有一家結合了工藝品商店及工場的店舖Polarsta,店主兼金工工藝家姓中根(Nakane),名則單字一個嶺(Ren)。「嶺」字在日本甚少應用在命名上,卻似乎貼切地描述了他造金工工藝時的作風。嶺,山嶺,大自然裡最穩重的存在,「在各種的雕塑物料之中,我覺得金屬是最適合自己的。」中根嶺說,泥土太柔軟,稍一分心便面容扭曲,而金屬的變化則是緩慢而含蓄的。中根嶺也特別喜歡自然的質感,他造的耳環手鐲等飾物,都沒有散發著華麗的閃光,倒是如同石塊或珊瑚般表面粗糙。

今年才28歲的中根嶺,在京都的工藝高中畢業後,便往東京就業,輾轉進入了一家首飾公司任職,踏上了飾物工匠之路。數年前自立門戶,工作以外,也開始造點單純為滿足興趣的東西,也就是照片中的金屬動物。概念有點像摺紙,以一塊金屬片敲敲打打折出動物的形態,然後添上耳朵或角。首個製作步驟也是從摺紙開始,先用紙張折出了模版,再嘗試用金屬依樣畫葫蘆,只是過程多不順利,因為金屬一邊給敲打,另一邊就會延展,必須經過幾番調節,才能找到竅門,造出理想中的模樣。

中根嶺不愛為動物添上眼睛,「因為一添上眼睛,動物就有表情了。」他笑說。動物無表情,我卻因此更清楚看到金屬的表情了。

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.