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Rings to Symbolize Your Eternal Love from GRAIN in Yaese Town
post : 2019.03.04 06:00
There are moments when a casual glance at someone’s hands catches your attention to a nice piece of jewelry on their fingers. If you’re looking for “matching rings or wedding rings that are unique and not like anyone else’s”, then I have something for you.
This piece is called “Sou”. It combines silver with cedar wood from Yakushima, one of Japan’s World Heritage Sites. Some of the Yakushima Sugi cedar trees on Yakushima Island are over 1,000 years old, and even the same cedar trees differ in color, grain and texture, making each and every one of them very unique.
These “pair rings” are designed so that when placed together, the grains connect together. The rings are made with the hopes that “the two wearing these rings will forever support each other,” just as the Yakushima cedar trees that support each other, growing side by side for over one thousand years.
Silver and wood. Creating jewelry that combines these two materials is Gou Kobashigawa from Okinawa. Kobashigawa-san was always interested in architecture and he went on to a university in Kagoshima where they offered architectural courses. He says while studying architecture, he became interested in things inside the structures, meaning spaces and furniture. Since the university didn’t offer classes on furniture, he studied independently. After graduating, he apprenticed for six years under a traditional Japanese woodwork craftsman in Kagoshima, making furniture.
Yakushima Sugi cedar is fine wood, and furniture created from them are very expensive, and some of the tables made with the Yakushima Sugi was priced up to 4 million yen. In seeing the large amounts of scrap wood resulting from making furniture, Kobashigawa-san thought, “Mottainai…what a waste of a good thing. If I can effectively use the scraps to make something…”
Kobashigawa-san always liked silver accessories, and wore silver rings and necklaces. He thought, “Wouldn’t it be interesting to make jewelry combining silver and wood?” He then began his research on jewelry making through TV, magazines, and the internet, and started making jewelry pieces and learning as he went along. He then learned metal-carving from a friend and dental technician. (Apparently, there are many former dental technicians who cross fields into the jewelry making industry since the techniques involved in making gold and silver teeth are similar to processing precious metals and polishing them to make jewelry!)
Later, at age 28, he returned home to Okinawa and started his own business. He opened GRAIN in Yaese Town, creating and selling jewelry that people can wear at all times.
The wood he uses in his jewelry are the knots of Yakushima Sugi (the knotty, gnarly parts of the tree are resinous and have a darker coloring which over time, develop a natural shine), as well as Ryukyu Pine, banyan, and acacia, the prefectural trees of Okinawa. Because the rings are processed with resin, they are strong against moisture so that you can keep it on while doing housework, bathing, or swimming.
Among the varieties of pines, Kobashigawa-san uses Ryukyu Pine, which is the second hardest and sturdiest of pines, and these rings shown above have a very strong presence. Rings like these can’t be ignored when worn and really shows a distinctive taste. One of the characteristics of Ryukyu Pine is that they have larger grains, and over time, the color darkens to amber. Seeing the color change over the years on your ring is another enjoyment that these special rings offer.
Kobashigawa-san enjoys collaborating with artists from different fields and says, “It’s great because we create pieces that I definitely wouldn’t be able to come up with on my own.” For example, the pendants shown above are created in collaboration with DAN, a henna artist residing in Okinawa. (Henna is a vegetable based coloring for body art.) These charming pendants combine the techniques of henna art to draw the designs with resin.
Jewelry isn’t the only thing GRAIN offers. The key cases shown above have cowhide sewn on Ryukyu Pine, and the design lets you feel the warmth of the wood grain. These make great gifts for a special gentleman.
This case using Ryukyu Pine for the handle is a new design by GRAIN. The case itself is made of paulownia wood, so it’s surprisingly light and very easy to carry. Because of its lightness, this is a popular item among female customers, too.
At GRAIN, they have items recommended for those who’re looking for “unique items that shine above the rest!” You can order online, but I recommend you visit their shop to take a closer look at each of their work since the grains on the pieces show different expressions depending on the angles.
Address: 2F 703-1 Gishi, Yaese Town, Shimajiri, Okinawa
Closed: Mondays, Tuesdays, Holidays, 2nd & 4th Sundays
(If you wish to visit outside their business hours, please call to make arrangements)
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Sachiko