6 December 2022

Interview With An Artist: Rokusuke Tsuda - Kaga Mizuhiki

"Threads of Bonding Relationships"

"Kaga Mizuhiki" was the first three-dimensional mizuhiki craft in Japan, which had previously been used for flat items such as betrothal gifts and special envelopes for monetary gifts. The founder, Sokichi Tsuda, started it in 1915. Mizuhiki is a profound and elegant means of communication that conveys feelings through wrapping rather than words. The two people who continue to carry on the tradition today are Hiroshi, the fourth generation, and Rokusuke, the fifth generation. 

This time we interviewed Rokusuke Tsuda, a fifth generation of Tsuda Mizuhiki,
the company of the founder of Kaga Mizuhiki. He has created a variety of works for Tsuda Mizuhiki and the "knot" brand, in which he handles everything from the design concept to the actual mizuhiki work almost single-handedly. Where does he get inspiration for his diverse designs?

"Large artworks and installations take a long time to conceptualize. Mizuhiki, a traditional Japanese wrapping technique, is used for gifts to loved ones. When people see the artwork or read the description, I want it to remind them of the inherent communicative significance of mizuhiki."

Work of Rokusuke Tsuda

For the small accessories and knick-knacks that he works on at "knot", inspiration comes from spontaneous ideas, and he comes up with designs by breaking down the elements of traditional mizuhiki. The attention to detail also shows a respect for tradition that seeks to carry on the significance of mizuhiki without compromising its meaning.

"The technique of curling mizuhiki was invented by Sokichi Tsuda, the founder of Kaga Mizuhiki. He thought of mizuhiki as a connection between people, and in the sense of not severing the connection, he made mizuhiki string work in such a way that it would be used up without being cut as much as possible. He did not cut the long mizuhiki after tying it, but curled it into a circle and used it as the design. That is how much care was taken in tying mizuhiki as a gift, placing emphasis on the connection between people. This design technique is used for the center of the decorative flowers."

The techniques created during the time Sokichi Tsuda headed the company are said to be the basis for most of the knots used in the world today. In particular, various ways of tying the lucky charms of cranes, turtles, pine trees, bamboo, and plum were invented and are still in use today.

Mizuhiki work is done by hand, one by one, without the use of machines. When asked about the production process, he said that it is a detailed work and takes time because there are only two people working on it: his father, Hiroshi, who has long experience as a craftsman, and himself. The problem with mizuhiki work, for which orders are received in large quantities, is that each person has his own habits, so there are individual differences between people. It is very difficult to minimize the differences, he said. In addition, the clients may have an image that the products are easy to make, and the delivery time for orders is short, which is also a challenge.

Lastly, we asked about the appeal of mizuhiki work and the development of products for overseas markets. "There are a few items that we have produced in response to overseas needs, which have led to the creation of new items, but basically we would like to convey the original tradition and charm of mizuhiki. Mizuhiki is a culture that conveys the feeling of care for others without using words. Conversely, it is a product that can transcend language barriers, and I believe that it can be shared by people overseas. I would be happy if mizuhiki, as a beautiful communication culture, could be conveyed to people overseas."

Kaga Mizuhiki "knot"

"knot" is the brand of Tsuda Mizuhiki, a long-established company that originated Kaga Mizuhiki. Because the spelling and pronunciation of knot and not are similar, the name was given with the meaning of being different from traditional mizuhiki and "not" the same as before. At the root of this naming is their confidence that the essence of mizuhiki will never change. It expresses their strong desire to pass on the tradition and culture of mizuhiki while designing items that can be accepted by a wider generation, such as modern colors and small items that can be easily incorporated into daily life. 

View Tsuda Mizuhiki "knot" Collection