Modern Japanese Design in Manchester


While we were in Manchester on Monday we called into the City Art Gallery. The main exhibition showing at the moment – Matthew Darbyshire: An Exhibition for Modern Living – didn’t particularly inspire, but I enjoyed the display in the Design Gallery featuring modern works by Japanese artists and designers, and other works inspired by Japanese design.

Drawn from Manchester’s own collections, the show provides an overview of the past fifty years of Japanese design. It highlights the breadth of Manchester’s collections, bringing together fashion, furniture, lighting, ceramics, glass, metalwork and jewellery.

The exhibits illustrated the Zen like approach to design; simplicity and minimalism – there was no excessive ornamentation on display – care and extremely skilful craftsmanship.

These are some of the works I particularly liked, snapped on my mobile phone.

Hibiki (Echoes), 2015 A metal bowl by Takahiro Yede. with strips of metal woven like basketwork


A number of metal vessels created by Alistair McCallum using a traditional Japanese metalworking technique – Makume Gane


Mokume Gane is a traditional Japanese metalworking technique and has been practiced for over 300 years. The name Mokume Gane, when translated into English, means wood grain metal, this refers to the patterns traditionally produced in Japan. Mokume Gane is a time consuming technique and involves building a sandwich of different metals, normally silver, copper and copper alloys. These are joined together by fusion or silver solder. The number of layers varies, dependant on the desired pattern; Alistair uses between 5 and 128 layers dependant on the individual piece. The pattern can be achieved in two ways, either by twisting or by cutting through the layers to reveal their different colours. The resulting sheet can then be made into the finished piece. Finally, the piece is patinated to enhance and enrich the contracting colours of the different metals. Alistair believes that the technique is best used on simple shapes where the relationship of pattern and for balance and are in harmony.

Atmospheric Re-entry 2011. A couple of head-dresses by Maiko Takeda. The one on the right was worn by Bjork during her Biblophilia tour a couple of years ago (which included a performance at the Manchester International Festival that year).


The following two pieces are by Ayako Tani who creates fragile vessels from glass rods. We’d seen some of her work before at the Wordsworth and Basho:Walking Poets exhibition at Dove Cottage in Grasmere last year.



An interesting ceramic piece by Yasuko Sakurai who creates coral-like ceramic forms by hand, using a technique that she invented after studying slip casting in Limoges, France.


A selection of pots by Edmund de Waal, very typical of his work


The Rose Chair (1990) by Masanori Umeda


The exhibition closes on 15 January.

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