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The Ateliers of Wonders

The Ateliers of Wonders

Discover 12 National Living Treasures on the cusp of creation

A unique vision through the lens of Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi

In the magical surroundings of the Cypress cloister of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, a photo gallery of images invites visitors to get a close up view of the workshops of 12 Japanese National Living Treasures. Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi had the privilege of observing these prized master artisans at work in their ateliers. Japan’s most distinguished Kimono makers, ceramicists, textile dyers, weavers, cabinet makers and a toso doll maker who have all been designated by Japan as “Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties” opened their doors to Kawauchi. With her artful and thoughtful lens she captures the array of materials, age-old skills, expert gestures, timeless tools and traditional savoir-faire that are integral to the creation of beautiful pieces.

The touch of a hand

Humans behind the lens

Rinko Kawauchi, conscious of the honour and rarity to both meet and observe Japanese National Living Treasures at work in their studios, approached her images with respect as a fellow creative and Japanese citizen, as well as with awe at the insights she was privileged to be witnessing. The result is candid, a visual homage to the meaningful and artistic daily existence of these master artisans, who are deeply connected to their workshops and their own creative rhythms, so closely interwoven with those of their predecessors.

Making of a masterpiece

A journey through the creative process

Expressive and immersive, these revealing pictures pay tribute to Japanese craftsmanship, showing the fine details, diverse textures, and multitude of colours unique to each artisanal process and individual workshop. The photographs illustrate the master artisans at crucial moments of creation, as they perform with great skill such ancient traditions as urushi and Kyushitsu lacquering, yuzen textile dyeing, kasuri weaving and bizen ceramics. Deep expressions of a rich cultural heritage are seen in the gesture of the hand: red lacquer precisely applied, the deft turn of bamboo and flakes of gold dropped gently onto a surface that conveys a world of light.

Designed and curated by: Rinko Kawauchi

Rinko Kawauchi was born in Shiga Prefecture in 1972. In 2002, Rinko received the Kimura Ihei Award, for her publications Utatane and Hanabi. Numerous other awards include 25th Infinity Award, Art Category in 2009. Rinko has held several solo exhibitions including The River Embraced Me (2016), Contemporary Art Museum Kumamoto. She is also the author of multiple publications such as Halo (2017), a picture book Hajimari no Hi (the day it started, 2018) and When I was Seven (2019).