COSMIC WONDER Free Press
From the perspective of energy, the act of burning soil means the death of the soil and the birth of a new substance. it suggests a dimension of energetic circulation beyond the visible, organic, or environmental. Phenomena that seem to run along a straight axis, like good and bad, liking and disliking, life and death, are actually circular events. It is where it is and I realize that I am part of it. A sphere has a stable shape, with no front and back, and can be made without tools. The focus is not about whether it is a bowl or a vase. You can see at a glance the differences among the fired soils. And yet they are the same, transferring their energies back and forth. The form that one sees is only one side of a form, the recognizable side. One must go beneath the surface to find the rest.
June 6, 2020
It was a long drive of about 6 hours from the city of Kolkata, India to the the village of Khadi. Upon arriving we drank chai from earthenware bowls and ate rotis. The table was set with paper napkins in shocking pink. April in West Bengal can be quite hot but walking in the scorching sunlight was made less difficult thanks to the gracious welcome of the villagers. Most of the village houses were made of clay with wooden structures painted with soil and with thatched roofs. The Okudosan (furnace), which was made as if it grew out of the earth, was where the thread gets refined. I was delighted to see that the village and its surroundings had withstood the changing times and very happy that our khadi was being woven here. The villagers share all of the work from scouring to weaving. At present, yarn spinning has evolved from the old Gandhi charka to the double charchard. Yarn spinning and winding are performed by women, while the weaving of large wide looms is performed by men. One loom was half-buried in the ground to take advantage of the humidity. In the past, every village would make khadi. And it is not so long ago that, in Japan, farmers made natural fabrics from plant fibers. This village, resounding with the pleasant sound of the loom, seemed joyful and full of life. Villagers were always passing from one house to another, or climbing the trees to pick mangoes, and talking animatedly with one another.
On that day, we stayed at a beautiful inn which had been the old factory for dying the khadi cloth indigo. Strolling through the garden at night, I saw countless fireflies shining like bells in the lime trees. The beautiful light was a gift for us on this journey.
April 1, 2020
Thanks and love to Masayo Esaki for arranging this trip to Khadi, to Ushma and Monika of Kolkata for finishing our Khadi up to the block print, and to everyone in Khadi village.
Japan was originally attached to the eastern coast of the Eurasian continent. The Japanese islands were formed approximately twenty thousands years ago, after several large crustal movements occurring over hundreds of millions of years. As the temperature of the earth gradually warmed from the end of the last glacial age, the Jōmon period started, and continued for more than several thousands years (and in some cases cited as long as fourteen thousands years), developing its own culture, until the arrival of the culturally different Yayoi period dated 300 BC to 300 AD. The Jōmon people were in contact with people overseas. Various things were introduced from south and from north, along the chained islands dotted from the Eurasian continent.
The Jōmon people used various housewares and tools such as potteries and stone implements, as well as hand-woven baskets made of local wild plants. Such baskets were excavated from many Jōmon ruins across Japan, these becoming a clue to understand the Jōmon lifestyle. This is significant and fascinating, in that the hand-woven basket has played an important role in the human life history since the earliest time.
The vegetation of Japan differs across regions, just as the climate differs. A wide variety of plants has been used for basketwork across islands including bamboos (such as madake-bamboo, mosochiku-bamboo, nemagaritake-bamboo, suzutake bamboo), akebi-vine, Japanese wing nut, wild vine, wild cherry tree, and kudzu vine. The shape and the weaving method of basket are also uniquely diverse, reflecting different lifestyles across regions, as well as according to its intended purpose, such as rice cultivation, grain harvest, and fishing.
Blessed with nature, made by the human hand, each basket is given a life. The production process involves soulfully laborious work from extracting raw materials in steep mountains, to designing the weaving pattern to enhance the material beauty. Each basket narrates the story of craftsmanship. The human’s reverence for nature dwells in each basket. The sublime beauty of a harmonious relationship between nature and humans, or the Japanese aesthetics, dwells in them. The art of traditional handcrafting celebrates the long history of human life. It invites us to the root of our soul.
Spring equinox, 2016
English translation by Kaori Nishizawa
I moved into a traditional thatched house that I call “Ryugu”. It is in a sato-yama, or a rural farming village, in a mountain valley north of Kyoto. The motivation to move here came from a series of events – the terrorist attacks in the United States, the Great East Japan Earthquake, as well as the Fukushima nuclear disaster. These events disturbed me deeply. Ever since, I have been interested in living a more natural life, exploring natural farming methods and the handiwork and crafts of the sato-yama, some of which have been nearly forgotten.
I was born and raised in Osaka city. I moved back and forth between Osaka and Kyoto since I was a student but in my heart I always wanted to live in a sato-yama. This new life has been more work than I expected and I’m busy every day. I remember being a child and dreaming of great swarms of fireflies flying over rice fields at night. Or dreaming of other children, wearing indigo-dyed yukata in various patterns, running through the fields on a summer night.
In a previous life, during the Edo period, I was born as a woman in Sabae village in Fukui, which is not far from Miyama. Although the village was poor, it seems that I was able to remain in the village because I was the youngest and did not go into service. (The Edo period is a rich era like the Jomon period, so I think this previous life was at the end of the Edo period.) While I worked as a farmer, I became a very beautiful and stylish woman. After my first husband died young in a horse accident, I was seduced by a man who made crafts. But then my sister died and I wound up marrying her husband. Though I died soon after, it seems like this might have been one of my most enjoyable lives. My friend, Junji Yamamoto, who was my sister in a previous life and who is currently running a restaurant called “Uontana”, informed me of this.
The other day, I set out to investigate a place called “Hiraki-Iwa” near the village along with my friend Makito Shindo. He had moved back from Kyoto to his parents’ house and took over the indigo dying works next door. Hiraki-Iwa is a temple-like ruin composed of giant white stones. I don’t know if it was built in the Jomon period or later. In any case, it may not have been studied in detail. The large megaliths are laid exactly east to west. The slits that remain in some places suggest that it may have been an ancient astronomical observatory. I wonder if one can still use it to track the movements of the sun and moon, or the position of the Arctic star during the summer and winter solstice? The whiteness of the stone is beautiful. The ancient people who created this site must have been attracted to its luminous surface.
Several villages in this area are collectively referred to as Chii Village, which is derived from from Mt.Chii on the Korean peninsula. The Baekje of the Korean peninsula are said to have originally founded the village. Legends concerning dragon palaces can be found along the 35th parallel north, which passed through Baekje. People from Fukui would likely have entered the continent along this route though I don’t know what kind of interactions the Jomon people would have had with the people on the continent.
I have one piece of Baekje pottery which I cherish. It sits in an alcove at Ryugu. All matter feels like one connected picture, but when parts are obscured, I can’t see it in its entirety. Yet small matters are also important to me. Sometimes it is a series of accidents or, conversely, an inevitable process, that leads to a clear image, or the sense of a clear image. I am here, caught in this current between the stars. And I want to see some interesting and beautiful pictures.
“mahora” First issue Contributed (Published by Hachiyodo)
Looking at this lyre, I am reminded of the German thinker Rudolf Steiner and his interest in the lyre as a tool for healing. I was once fascinated by Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy and in order to learn more about it I got to know the late Ryuhan Nishikawa, who was of Japan’s leading experts on Steiner. A theological researcher and teacher, he worked on many translations of Steiner’s books. On two occasions I asked Nishikawa to contribute a text to accompany my artwork. He always hoped that the Earth would evolve in a good direction. His last blog post started with this: “In the spring of 2011, if I could pray to avert the Fukushima disaster in exchange for my life, I would accept my heart failure.” Nishikawa loved sweets and had a big body but it was full of kindness. I remember a time in the heat of late autumn when I wanted to visit a coffee shop that was a little too far away. As we walked down the asphalt road I could see that Nishikawa was out of breath. There are two lyres at CATHERINA EMIW: a mother lyre and a baby lyre. Baby lyres are made from the hollowed out trees that are first used to create mother lyres. The lyre made by Mirai Matsumoto of CATHERINA EMIW is young and beautiful. The various medieval instruments from CATHERINA EMIW are all made from Japanese wood, despite being Western-style instruments. Surprisingly few of these instruments still exist, so they are reconstructed by referring to Renaissance paintings. They produce such rich timbres that transcend time and place.
When you meditate, it is very important to first purify the space. Purifying with sage or herbs is a good way to clean a room. If you want to clean up both the place and your energy, you need some spiritual movement as well. To this end, I appreciate the violet flame of love and purification by Ascended Master Saint Germain. When I imagine the violet flame of Saint Germain, I enter into a state of pure high waves. Chogappo’s work, which is produced by Cosmic Wonder, is a hand-woven and hemp silk cloth that was woven in Korea and dyed with Bengala and logwood. The pieces of cloth are made into color gradations. When you see the work in natural light, it appears that there is a light purple hexagonal star in the middle of the work. With this I want to express Saint Germain’s violet flame of love and purification.
When I said to Rie Suzuki of rinn to hitsuji that “I want the candle of an angel”, she was surprised. Suzuki was also asked a few years ago to make a series of angel candles. Was it an angel’s message?
She did not feel the right inspiration for many years to make the angel candles. It was finally a Jomon clay figurine that would be the model. The clay candles made of beeswax are very unique and charming, making them quite popular among Suzuki’s works. It feels as though Suzuki has been surrounded by angels ever since I met her. Her candles are carefully created one by one, without using a mold. An angel appears only if you call it up with your heart. Her white angel candle will fill a space with beauty when the dancing angel is ignited.
Harmonic Meditation Arts and Crafts has brought together artists and friends who have met over the last few years. It may seem like a quiet or subdued collection but I think it is very beautiful. Beautiful works with spiritual qualities beyond what is visible, they will feed the heart and the memory of the soul. I think this will be what supports the future of arts and crafts. Many flowers are yet to open.
Sep 15, 2019
We are now connected to the universe and to our true selves.
Many people live with enlightenment.Light and shade are integrated and full of beauty.
I collected some artworks and organized workshops for Harmonic Meditation.
To capture the angel in life, I sought a piece of wood bearing an angel’s impression.Inside a forest I came upon a beautiful lake and picked up decayed branches and bits of beech and squirrel wood.I searched for the angel’s image but it was nowhere to be found.Soon after, I visited a friend’s house and met Hiroki Tashiro, an artist who lived nearby. A piece of roughly carved wood in his atelier caught my eye.Behind its curious shape was the angel itself. Hiroki Tashiro expresses the fear of spiritual things in his creations. I think that expressing this fear is the aim of primitive art.
The beauty of a crystal seems to intensify the more you get along with it. Getting along with crystals may sound like a strange expression to those who are not familiar with them.Perhaps crystals and people are sympathetic creatures. It is said that when a loving word is applied to water, its frequency changes and its molecular shape is beautifully arranged. I wonder if quartz has the same property, but I feel that crystal is quite different and can be easily misunderstood. Yasuhide Ono interacts with crystals to create his beautiful work. I have heard that the body’s tissue will adapt into a crystal body in the near future.Wearing a crystal sheath will allow you to understand yourself at a higher frequency. Of course the human body is made of water. Words of love and their vibrations are very good for the body.
I am attracted by the shape of a pot. Perhaps an octopus-shaped top attracted people in ancient times. Ceramicist Miyakono Yasuda says that a vibrational sound flows from the earthen wall. According to the waveform in the pot, a large open mouth has a low frequency, and a small mouth has a high frequency. It’s a healing piece for me, sleeping with Yasuda’s pot at my bedside. When a person chooses a pot, they are perhaps drawn to it unconsciously by its vibrations. A pot that comforts, a pot that ages well, a pot that creates a better space for you. Pottery may offer a better way of expressing gratitude than flower arrangements.
I always imagined that the creations of woodworker Masaru Kawai could be used by the gods. Some of his works have that sense of divine awe. Is this sensation particular to the Japanese view of nature? Kawai works with Japanese trees and thinks about what kind of mountains and forests have grown on this island country. Just imagine the scene where a tree grew up and it becomes a joy to live with wood. Much of the Center for Cosmic Wonder’s furniture is made by Kawai, and my 200 year-old house is furnished with Kawai’s work along with old Korean pieces. For me, it is not strange that Kawai’s furniture matches the old techniques. To change the subject, what about the mountains of Japan? Many cedars have been planted in the mountains and left untended.The scenery of solar panels that make effective use of the mountains feels lonely. Is it really necessary to destroy the landscape of the sato-yama so thoroughly? Cedars grown for logging have shallow roots and can easily fall down, and when planted densely, the cedars sense the danger and produce a large amount of pollen. Planted cedars must be managed and used. There’s no sense in planting cedars that won’t be managed. There are cedar mountains and barriers to control soil erosion around my house. This is a problem that must be solved someday. Kawai’s coniferous forest project SOMA will be a good opportunity to change the mountains of Japan.
It has always been natural for the Japanese to supplement clothing fabrics with grass and wood fibers from the mountains and fields. This is a vital heritage as natural fabrics are on the brink of disappearing. It is only in recent history that cotton became popular. Natural fabrics include hemp and ramie, elm, wisteria, kudzu, paper, mulberry, banana tree, and so on. The work of a Japanese farmer was once a daily task of going to the mountains to procure materials, burning ash juice, knitting, and weaving.I received an old linden cloth from Kei Kawasaki of Gallery Kei who works with old fabrics and folk goods in Kyoto. Kawasaki is an expert on natural and antique fabrics from around the world. The linden cloth was full of holes so I asked Kaoru Yokoo to mend the material. It seems that the fabric was used as a steaming lid, and Yokoo described the steam with beautiful silver embroidery. Yokoo is a genius who connects the garment with its owner by reviving a damaged piece that has been worn repeatedly. With every repair of the garment, a story is extended, woven in with her careful hand. It would be interesting to trace the memory of cloth and see into its past.
Sep 01, 2019
Shigeo Tanaka restored a 280-year-old house in the village of Kayamori, which lies in a valley among the mountains of Asuka, a part of Japan with ancient Baekje settlements. In the courtyard, he built a hanok-like workshop with a thick and rounded roof of straw. The workshop looks as old as the house. To be able to live and work in such an environment must be very special. There is a great waterfall deep in the mountain well away from the mountain’s paths. The waterfall runs so deep and clear that the overlapping currents have the color of jade. It is said that this is the gateway to Ryugu, the sunken palace of Ryujin. This is the same jade that washes over Tanaka’s white porcelain work. This color looks to me like the glinting of a dragon’s eye.Tanaka’s kiln is in the mountains near his house and workshop. He also has a farm that surrounds the kiln. He always sends me some delicious fruits from his farm.This time there was a concern that the kiln’s temperature might not exceed the 1,000 degrees needed to melt the glaze over the following four days. But sure enough, the pillar of fire rose through the chimney of the kiln and the next morning when Tanaka looked inside, the glaze had melted beautifully. I think that the ash work is even more exquisite as it bears the traces of so much firewood. These days splashes of pink sometimes accentuate the pottery’s white surface. Tanaka incorporates ancient shapes, marking our eternal search for the truth. The work is made with such exquisite feeling that the essence of the universe is summoned out. The chaotic interweaving of old and new sprits makes his work unrivaled. The truth behind beauty appears as love.
Oct 1, 2019
Tattsuke for Toru Inomoto made with Wisteria woven by Tame Mitsuno
When I opened the front door feeling its damp moisture on my hand, I momentarily found myself dizzy and blinded by the darkness of the earthen floor in contrast to the brightness of the outside.
“Who’s visiting on this snowy day?”
“It’s Inomoto from the museum.”
“Ah, it’s the young fellow from the museum again.”
Lit by the light of the hearth, the curled up figure that had just spoken appeared from behind the shoji screen stained in soot.
Sat at the edge of the hearth with her legs stretched out, she hooks the fibers around the thumbs of her feet, handling and twisting them between her thumb and index finger with a certain air of ease without making any knots, gradually transferring them into the basket placed beside her. This is what is referred to as umu (spinning).
As I continue to watch, her hands moved swiftly, almost as if she had eyes on her fingertips. She gave the impression of a silkworm that spews thread to make its cocoon.
She had continued to firmly dismiss my plea, stating, “I’ve never spoken about wisteria weaving in front of others, nor have I tried teaching it to anyone. No matter how many times you ask me, what I can’t do, I just can’t do.”
It was then that her partner Shintaro who sat wrapped in a futon said, “I see he’s come many times in the snow to speak to me. Why don’t you get involved for once?” Thus with these words, a wisteria weaving workshop had begun under the guidance and by following the example of Tame Mitsuno and Tsuya Ogawa (1985).
The women who engaged in wisteria weaving were of old age, and due to fear of being unable to pass on their techniques to future generations, it was decided that a documentary video would be filmed (1987).
At the time there had been a request from the textile wholesaler “Shuuiki” in Kyoto to produce a fabric with a width of 45cm that could be used to make floor cushions for a tearoom. In filming the video we asked the women to return to the traditional method and weave the fabric at a width of 35cm.
Tame-san who was the central figure had suggested, “Since I’d feel more in spirits, how about weaving two rolls of cloth rather than one?” She further proposed to me that I purchase these two rolls (320,000 yen worth in total: 1 roll = 150,000 yen x 2 rolls + what she had began weaving and had just finished weaving). Of course, this was a natural request. Having only just started working at the museum at the time, I had considered purchasing the cloth on part of the museum. Nevertheless I was unable to incorporate the fee within the museum’s budget, and telling myself that ultimately I would be able to preserve the actual cloth along with the documented video, I took the leap and decided to make the purchase.
And now, I have asked Yukinori Maeda to tailor this cloth into a ‘tattsuke.’ Once the snow has melted I’d like to wear my tattsukeand go out to work in the fields.
I don’t doubt that Tame-san would be laughing in the afterlife, telling me, “Well you’re a bit of a peculiar one aren’t you?”
Toru Inomoto, Gouryoku-no-kai
Tame san is Umu (spinning) of Wisteria, sat at the edge of the hearth
From the end of January to the beginning of the Lunar New Year, the village becomes covered in snow, giving rise to a beautiful white landscape.
This white world, as if trying to draw out something from within us, leads people engross themselves in tasks within the home.
Such environment is near that of death, and through strengthening the light of life amidst the silent calm, one continuously finds oneself in a daze-like sensation of reflecting and absorbing this luminance like sound.
Last year, the Ryugu where I live at the foothills of the mountains, had itself become reminiscent a snow hut due to the gusts of snow that had blown into the valley. I recall small wild animals going to and fro in the attic as the mountains and the thatched roof of the old house came to merge as one through the snowfall. This time around one must take effort so that the roof and mountains do not come together as one again.
I realize it has now been one year since I moved here. I have no sense of the time spent here being long or short, nor do I have an awareness of living in a place that is unknown to me. All I simply feel is the sense of me living here, in this very place, and for that I am grateful.
Venturing into the forests of Asei within the neighboring mountainous valleys on a deep snowy day like this, what would emerge before one’s eyes is a profoundly beautiful, white and unexplored land that is connected to the other world. One hopes to enter into such a forest one day.
My words may sound like those of a vexing literate, yet all I wish for is to purely witness this beautiful scene in nature.
When I come across the footsteps of some wild animal in the snow-covered mountains, I engage in playfully tracing their path. Depicted in that fleeting moment, are traces of people and animals coming together upon the snow.
January 22, 2018
With sincere gratitude for all the encounters and paths crossed in this village
from “Chii Ryugu Journal”
Photography by Ai Nakagawa
Translation by Kei Benger
paper and crystal 2003
An eternal thing and a not eternal thing -for example, paper and crystal were placed
Well captain, what knows eternity?
I’ll take it on a ship.
All collection was made by paper, and attached flat cut crystal one by one. It doesn’t mean crystal is eternity and paper is not eternity, we want to make people feel everything is made, broken and gone that never remains in a moment.*
N.H: “Paper and Crystal” is a collection of clothing made of paper. Cosmic Wonder has also recently presented clothing called kamikoromo made of washi paper, which has been worn as garments for the “water ceremony” and “Omizue” (a ceremony for drinking spring water) I would like to ask you about the “Paper and Crystal” collection that you had presented back then. At the opening of the ‘You reach out –right now- for something: Questioning the Concept of Fashion’ exhibition, Susan Cianciolo had worn paper clothing that had been made by Cosmic Wonder at the time. I was deeply moved by this. I thought to myself, “so it really is possible to wear such clothes within the context of ordinary life.”
Y.M: (laughs) When we presented the collection at Paris Fashion Week, the next morning’s edition of the Liberation Newspaper had took half a page to feature photographs of these paper clothes. The fact that photographs of paper clothing were printed on paper in this way had amused me.
N.H: They have a completely different silhouette and sense of volume to that of fabric.
Y.M: In making them they had turned out more voluminous than I had thought. I have always been fond of crystals, and have continued to collect them. I am also very fond of printed matter and things that are made of paper. It was for this reason that I decided to bring the two things that I like together. The idea was initiated in this way, and I thought that it would be beautiful if I could create a contrast between the two. For the white clothes I used paper like you’d see in FedEx packaging, and for the other colored paper I used recycle paper. I would apply a core to the paper, or affix cloth from underneath so make it more durable and prevent it from tearing.
Forest Heights Lodge COSMIC WONDER 2004
The sun and the moon appear in your sky at the same time.
Equipment of Forest Heights Lodge COSMIC WONDER are nightwear for the daytime, sleeping bag for the daytime, pillow and bedcover for the daytime, picture for the daytime.*
N.H: Cosmic Wonder’s collections would greatly change its course here on after, moving towards the direction in which groups of men and women reside within a beautiful utopia. The first of such endeavors was Forest Heights Lodge Cosmic Wonder. Then it leads to magic village.
Y.M: I had been thinking about 9.11 for a long time. I was creating works while going back and forth between different elements, but I decided to slightly step away from the realm of personal expression. In terms of production I had always had a sense of admiration towards utopian places, freedom, and the spiritual world. It was just an issue of conveying it more clearly and in a visual way. Incorporating this interest towards the spiritual world into our works is something that we continue to do today, and we decided to move more and more in this direction. I feel that we have always fluctuated between two aspects that are, the aspect that focuses on creation, and the aspect of producing clothing that embody a spiritual impression but are comfortable to wear. I suppose that what has remained consistently unchanged is the way in which we create things with an awareness towards space.
N.H: Perhaps this fundamental approach will continue to remain unchanged, both now and into the future.
Y.M: Even though we had been thinking about and doing the same kind of thing since the beginning, it was from around this point in time when I began to consider presenting the sense of direction that I’m looking at more clearly, so that its evident to anyone who sees the work. I believe that one of the roles of art is to indicate which direction one is facing at that given moment.
N.H: Recently you have relocated both your studio and residence to Miyama. Is this because you imagine it as being a utopian setting of sorts? I see it as being a process within the context of your real life, in which the clothes in space, that is to say, the utopia that you had imagined, comes to manifest as reality.
Y.M: I hope to be able to engage in creation while having a deep understanding of spirituality.
Will it be possible to create something like this from living in the mountains?
Will leading a meditative life that lies close to nature, aid me in my way?
What will be born from this?
*The poetry texts are the concepts for each collection that were written at the time.
January 17, 2017
Nakako Hayashi and Yukinori Maeda
Traslator: Kei Benjer
paper and crystal 2003
Photography by Shoji Fujii
Forest Heights Lodge COSMIC WONDER 2004
Show at Cosmic gallery, Paris
Photography by Yuki Kimura