Kumiko woodwork

Kumiko: The Art of Japanese Woodwork

Japanese traditional arts and handicrafts vary in many regions of Japan with each area having their own specialties. Local arts and handicrafts have had many outside influences from other cultures. This was a result of the number of sudden invasions the island nations went through over the centuries. This was followed by the sakoku period where the country had very little contact with the outside world. The culmination and aesthetic uniqueness of traditional Japanese art is a result of assimilating the influence of foreign cultures and elements.Shoji screen

Shoji screen

Woodwork without the use of nails

Kumiko is a traditional delicate and sophisticated Japanese technique of assembling wooden pieces without the use of nails. With just a plane, saw, chisel and other tools, thinly slit wooden pieces are punched, grooved and joined individually, as well as to make fine adjustments to the wood. This was a technique developed during the Asuka era (600-700 CE).

The Kumiko panels slot together and stay in place by the pressure created by meticulous and calculated cutting and arranging. The finished product is a complex pattern that is mainly used in the creation of shoji doors and screens (a door, window or room divider used in traditional Japanese architecture).Kumiko style

Timeless patters and designs

The nearly 200 patterns used in the Kumiko designs have been around since the Edo era (1603-1868). Each design mimics a pattern in nature that is believed to be a good omen. The patterns are designed to be aesthetically pleasing as well as to distribute light and wind in a calm and beautiful way.

Kumiko designs are classified into two broad categories: Hishi Kumiko (diamond shape) and Koshi Kumiko (lattice). Using a combination of horizontal and vertical lines referencing a selected design, grids are fitted into the frames. The several hundred variations of Kumiko require the use of appropriate tools and patterns. It takes passion, and well-developed skills and know-how to be able to create beautiful end results of all Kumiko designs, as is prevalent in all Japanese arts and handicrafts.