Hakuya Noguchi, a 5th generation gold leaf master
This post was started and posted on November 30. This is a more complete post here.
In the afternoon of my first day in Kyoto, Kiyo took me to Gold Leaf Art, the museum of Noguchi-san. I was going to see how he designs obi with gold leaf. I expected to find that he takes gold leaf and presses it onto fabric and then uses the fabric to make obi. The reality was much more interesting than I imagined.
When I walked in his workroom I said,
You have the sun in here.
The sun was shining and these obi with gold leaf were catching it.
Noguchi-san uses gold leaf and other metals for different colors.
The pieces of gold or silver leaf are made by putting a small piece of precious metal under a paper and pounding it thin. It ends up this size.
He uses brushes made out of woman’s hair.
This block of wood has tightly packed hair running through the entire thing. He ‘sharpens’ it like a pencil as it wears down.
He uses tweezers and tools to gently maneuver the leaf into place. He often uses his breath to move it ever so slightly.
In this picture, the ovals in the design on paper, will end up as circles on the obi. Noguchi-san has to adjust the design for the elongation that will happen as it is woven.
This finished obi with precious metals –
started out as a design on paper similar to this. This one in the picture has been sent out to a master cutter who cuts the paper, (impressed with metal), into threads. He leaves the border uncut. That way the threads stay in the correct order for the design.
The weaver takes the threads one by one and weaves them into an obi.
In the foreground of this photo is a picture of an ancient gold leaf screen. Experts have puzzled over the unique pattern in the gold leaf. It was not known how it was created.
Noguchi-san was able to reproduce it exactly. There is a book in the works detailing his findings. My understanding of what he did follows.
Noguchi-san gave me this piece of paper. It is used for pounding a small amount of metal into leaf. The metal ends up this size when it is pounded as thin as it can go. The edges are not squared off. It’s like rolling a pie crust, it rounds out.
This paper can only be torn in one direction.
By tearing the paper or the gold leaf, you can create more nearly square corners.
If you turn the leaf or paper so the ‘corners’ face out, and fill in the triangular shaped openings, then you have more of an even square coverage for working large areas.
Noguchi-san did it with gold leaf to show me. When he filled in the triangle areas, a gentle pressure makes the leaf adhere to itself, (again, like pie crust).
The Gold Leaf Art Museum is housed in one of the most photographed traditional Japanese style houses.
It has a garden in the center of the building.
And a garden to look out at while you have tea.
Noguchi-san’s son is also a gold leaf artist. Both artists have their work on display and some items for sale.
Gold Leaf Screen
Another screen and art work.
I am honored to have been there. It was such a joy to be surrounded by such beauty in so many forms – the people, the gardens and the Gold Leaf Art. I hope you get to go there some day and see too.
© 2010 Jeanne Litt, All rights reserved.