YOSHIO SAKAI: BALANCE OF OLD AND YOUNG
Wooden Cups in Sabae, Fukui Prefecture
"For a good product it needs both; The passion from the younger ones and the skills from the older ones."
When you enter Sakai-san’s workshop, you smell fresh cut wood and saw dust, which appears when you carve wood. The walls tell you how Yoshio Sakai, the owner of Rokurosha and wood carver, thinks about his role in the process of wood making and his role amongst society.
Yoshio Sakai is not a typical craftsman. At least he believes that. He is a woodcarver to earn money; he has the skills of a craftsman, but the mind of a designer. The difference lies in imagination. Designers think in problems and solutions, craftsman usually don’t see the bigger picture.
Why did you choose to work with wood?
Wood as a material is close – literally close.
Sabae is surrounded by woods as the whole of Japan is full of wood and it’s always been used. Sakai’s focus is sustainability.
The longer you use a product, the lower the quality gets, but not in wood.
Sakai wants to make lifetime products which people can use longer. His other focus, locality, appears frequently when you have a close look at the walls or when you talk to Sakai.
I know the people and the craftsmen around me; when I need a lacquer I go across the street. We help each other.
In his area Sakai is the only woodcarver. For him this is reason enough to not quit his job. Who else will preserve this process? Sakai is not the type for having visions and direct paths to fulfill them. He chooses on the day what he is going to do.
When I think about the future, I will create an environment, where younger people can become creative craftsmen.
Where does your creativity come from?
I wouldn’t say I’m creative, because I know other people who are more creative. I don’t want to be creative, because I don’t want to work too hard; I just want this piece of wood to be the best thing in the world. Being creative means being a child again – there are no limits of time or money.
When younger people do something, it has energy, because they are more motivated. When they get older the motivation disappears, but their skills increase. For a good product it needs both – the passion from the younger ones and the skills from the older ones.
How about you?
I’m 40. I don’t have a motivation to work. If I would have a choice, I would pick apples in New Zealand again, or just relax in the sun and sleep under the kotatsu.
In his break he watches anime and eats his bento. Everything that happens is calm and unexciting; when he talks there is hardly any emphasis in his voice. He carves, stops, looks, carves again, touches … an everyday routine. At a certain moment you stop hearing the noise from the engine.
Does he find his work boring? Yes, maybe a little bit. In that case he stops and looks for something else to do.
The room is full of things. He likes to collect the things he likes. This is where he gets his inspiration from: colors, textures, patterns, music, and nature. The collection looks random, some things are broken.
I like to touch them and look at them, each thing tells a different story to me.
Are you looking for perfection?
As a craftsmen, yes. You have to be perfect, the cup has to be perfect to continue the process and it is.
But of course, we are human. For me personally, imperfection would be totally fine – but usually not for the costumer.
Sakai-san’s work is located in the field of perfection and imperfection and constantly distinguishing between being a craftsmen or being a designer. As a craftsmen, he has to be perfect, the cup has to be perfect to continue the process – and it is. But the beauty of his work, the ideas and inspiration, he finds those in imperfection. His award-winning product, Timber, is all about keeping the "imperfection" of nature. Sakai uses the garbage of the work of other craftsmen. The curiosity for every new day drives him to try out something new in his experiments.
Sabae, Fukui Prefecture
Yoshio Sakai (Rokurosha)