A personal experience of meeting one of the most extraordinary urushi master of Namiki, Mr. Kyusai Yoshida is exhilarating and exciting for someone who had seen and transacted the many breathtaking masterpieces he had created.
What is it like, in my own eyes, of a master urushi-shi that makes these wonderful works like?
It was my first trip visiting Hiratsuka, the factory of Pilot Corporation in Japan. The early summer heat in 1999 heralded a familiar welcome to the land of the rising sun.
The first thing that I noticed when I stepped into the factory premise was a flag that welcomed the visitor. As if like clockwork, I was welcomed into a meeting room where I met Mr. Yoshida; then a slim figure with a soft gentle voice.
After showing me around the factory where thousands of pens were being produced, I was led to 2 rooms where the names of artists like Masato and others are supposed to be working. Personally, I have met Mr. Masato at Elephant & Coral when he first came to Singapore on his honeymoon!
Here, I was engaged in a curiousity hunt for interesting pens and an opportunity to learn from the then Chief Artist. Mr. Yoshida carries a brownish maki-e pen that bears a motif of a gourd. Jokingly, I have asked if he can give this pen to me as a souvenir (no harm asking) and sure enough, he said that the pen had been with him for a long time and it will not be appropriate to give a company’s property away.
He shared with me the beauty of how he maintained maki-e works and pens which he carried. Using, the back of a curled thumb, he rubbed it gently across the pen barrel and cap of his pen to demonstrate to me how he would have “feed” a maki-e pen. The oils from our body is supposed to nournish the natural lacquer on the pen just like exquisite jadite. All along maintaining his soft gentle voice which hides a resonant tone of vibrancy and creative explosive force that are inherent in his works.
His brilliance was also exhibited from other encounters where an ordinary piece of work was already simply exquisite when it was made using his skillful hands. I was already very impressed with his skills on maki-e knowing full well that some of the maki-e techniques are quite difficult for just one artist to execute and complete.
Only when you begin to see and appreciate the difference between a highly skilled urushi-shi who already produced exquisite maki-e works and a true legend who not only uncovers the joy and gratification from within each of us when you least expected it to even happen. Smiles and joys of tears began to ooz from my eyes when I realized that I have really met Mr. Kyusai Yoshida – The True Legend