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Shokunin: Chiemi Ogura, Bamboo Basketry

Photo by Yuya Hoshino

In celebration of our current Art in the Garden exhibition, Shokunin: Five Kyoto Artisans Look to the Future, each week we’ll feature one of the five artists whose work is showcased in the exhibition. Previously, we featured Hosai Matsubayashi and Shuji Nakagawa. This week, we’re sharing the work of Chiemi Ogura who is establishing her own style and technique by using elaborate traditional weaving patterns.

“I have great admiration for Kyoto’s refined aesthetics that have been cultivated in the culture of Tea over its long history. One important aspect of the tea ceremony is that of self-restraint. I feel that this attitude is also an intrinsic part of the life of the Kyoto shokunin, and it is apparent in Kyoto crafts—the attitude of giving one’s body and soul, restraining and improving oneself in the process.” – Chiemi Ogura

Photo by Yuya Hoshino

Chiemi Ogura is the youngest artisan and the only woman in this exhibition. Born in a small town in eastern Japan, her admiration for fine crafts drew her to Kyoto to pursue a career as an artisan. The traditional path is to complete a rigorous ten-year apprenticeship with a master craftsman. Today, such apprenticeships are rare, having been replaced by craft schools that teach technical skills.

Photo by Yuya Hoshino

Chiemi completed her schooling and with no family legacy behind her, she continued to persevere on her own to refine her craft to the level of a Kyoto shokunin, successfully establishing her own style and technique. Using elaborate traditional weaving patterns, her work has a modern look, which has drawn the attention of design-conscious audiences of all ages.

“At times, I feel inferior to the others because I am not from a shokunin family. Having no one to show me the way, it has surely taken me longer to get there. The time I have spent is brief, compared with the generations of accumulated knowledge and experience available to an artisan of shokunin lineage. Nonetheless, I strive to cultivate the best qualities of Kyoto shokunin and hope that my work will inspire other young people to seek a new pathway to becoming a shokunin.” – Chiemi Ogura