Satoshi Kumano of Kumanodo looks like a cross between a big happy child and a teddy bear. Fittingly, since his name means, literally, "field of bears". His words reveal a person who has discovered that joy is the most important achievement in life. But he doesn't keep all that joy to himself, he shares it.
Kumano's calling card says that he is a maker of music boxes and fashionable wood bags, and also a street organist. Working in his craft studio, Kumano is serene, a strong contrast to the very animated personality we meet in his showroom, where he shows off his skills as a balloon artist and street organist.
His father, who was also a maker of Sendai tansu, the wooden chests of samurai aristocrats, taught him not only the craft of woodworking but the playful qualities that make a person (and his creative works) attractive. Kumano beams as he shows off an intricate set of interlocking tables and chairs that his father made for him when Satoshi was a boy. All the pieces of this set were carved from a single block of wood.
Little wonder, then, that his many wooden bags and music boxes all have a whimsical and mysterious quality, evoking both a child's fantasy and a supreme elegance. Kumano usually does not tint his products or use coloured varnishes, preferring natural colours and patterns. Each bag and box is truly an original, even if it follows a common pattern or style. With handmade precision clasps, interlocking wooden posts and grooves that form a fit tighter than could be produced by metal or other joints, as well as a whole host of other special elements and design features, these Kumanodo products are beautiful and elegant adornments, whether on a table or adorning a person.
They will bring their owners, and the people who give them as gifts, the most important thing of all: joy.
The tiny, thin, long piece of wood is slipped into similarly thin, long grooves in other pieces of wood. Satoshi Kumano is joining these pieces together to assemble one of his handbags. The glue that has been applied to the thin strip of wood is starting to seep inside the wood itself, causing it to expand. Can’t rush, but time is critical. Kumano pushes the wood in, carefully; this wood is very strong in one direction, but extremely brittle in another. And…it’s a perfect fit!
These pieces of wood have previously been dried for several weeks in a controlled environment. The drying makes the wood contract as far as possible. Once the strip is inside the groove, it absorbs all of the remaining glue, making it expand to seal the pieces together. It is indeed a perfect fit.
The clasps and other pieces in his handbags, as well as the various pieces in Kumano’s music boxes, all have the same quality, precision and attention to detail. But what really distinguishes Kumanodo products is the whimsical, delightful joy that emanates from them.
[re:new tohoku] Kumanodo
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Great products from areas in Japan that were hit hard by the 2011 disaster were featured at Asia House in London in July, 2012. We are eager to identify buyers, designers and other partners who can help us make these products successful in markets outside Japan.