Saturday, September 20, 2014

Puzzling Evidence - Japanese Inaba Cloisonne Buttons

eBay vendor lynne1984 offered a rare set of Inaba buttons demonstrating the cloisonne process:



Vendor states: "from the Inaba Manufacturing Store in Kyoto Japan, which my parents probably visited while stationed in Japan - late 1940's early 50's. Original - has been sitting in a drawer for the past 35+ years. Some of the pieces look to have been lost of eroded with time and travel."
eBay vendor wondollar has a set on offer that appear to be Inaba buttons as well:
And I found one in my collection:

Note the tiny circles surrounding the rims - a very typical Japanese motif.

The July 2004 issue of the National Button Society's Bulletin has a nice article, "Enamels of the Modern Era" by Bruce Beck.  You can purchase a copy from the address in this PDF.  
One of Beck's photo illustrations, based upon the above evidence, seems to be mistakenly attributed as Chinese, when it should be Japanese.  

In later decades after World War II the Inaba Company seems to have shifted to stamped and enameled designs, rather than those featuring hand-applied wires.  This set is still accompanied by its original purchase bag:



More examples of Inaba buttons:





This blogger has posted an interesting series of photos he took in 1976 Japan, including several of the Inaba factory and showroom, two of which are quoted below:


And as a final bit of puzzling evidence, an exquisite set of Japanese chrysanthemum buttons of unknown date and atelier (anyone with an opinion, please feel free to chime in).
"FIVE EXTREMELY FINE JAPANESE CLOISONNE SILVER BUTTONS. Large size set decorated with chrysanthemums on blue ground, silver backs with wire loop shank. 1 3/8. (Three missing shanks) "
UPDATE: eBay vendor patiquespottery2 had another example of an Inaba cloisonne button:

Ebay vendor patiquespottery2



Sunday, September 7, 2014

Puzzling Evidence – Japanese Cloisonné Beads, Ojime-style Beads In Necklaces

A few months ago a small handful of what are likely antique Japanese cloisonné beads was offered by U.K. eBay seller worth1010:
Japanese 15mm beads on left, contrasted with more recent 15mm Chinese cloisonne beads on right
Close-up pictures make these beads appear the size of golf balls.  The Chinese goldfish bead from the previous picture is shown atop a U.S. dime coin in an attempt to provide some sense of proportion.

Over the years at the beadcollector.net forum various other Japanese cloisonné beads have been discussed, including a set owned by Stefany Tomalin that appear to be similar to those in the eBay sale.
Larger beads are 18-20mm, smaller are 12mm.  Stefany's beads appear to have a better polish.

Beadcollector.net forum discussion of these beads.

Striped bead at top, second from left, is cloisonne. Beadcollector.net forum discussion here.

Beadcollector.net discussion of these beads

Beadcollector.net forum discussion



Gregory Irvine, in his book Japanese Cloisonné Enamels (V&A publishing, copyright 2011) shows an illustration on page 18 of an early enamel inro, ojime, and netsuke set dated to 1800-50, in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum.


A similar ojime appears in this set from an online auction:


Fredric T. Schneider in The Art of Japanese Cloisonné enamel: History, Techniques and Artists, 1600 to the Present (McFarland & Company, Inc., copyright 2010) discusses the use of low-fired enamels that in Japanese are termed doro shippo, used from the 1830s to 1870s:

“In comparison to later work, these doro shippo pieces user lower fired enamels…with a more limited opaque palette, generally of dull and subdued colors…often emphasizing deep green, and incapable of polishing to a hard, mirror-like surface. … Because the pieces were fired at a relatively low temperature and the enamels did not melt well, they usually emerged from the kiln with a wavy enamel surface and severe pitting, and thus often required grinding after each of the many firings needed to complete a piece. … The enamels did not adhere well to the metal substrate and had a coefficient of expansion that tended to leave cracks when fired; therefore, closely-spaced wires were required over the entire surface to hold the enamels properly in place and prevent cracking even when the design did not warrant them.”

Most interestingly with regard to our subject, Schneider goes on to relate:

“By the mid-1860s … Japanese wirework was quite fine and the enamels, though dull and emphasizing a dark green ground, were well placed in the cells rather than spilling over into adjacent areas – thus a very high level of skill had already been achieved before the 1868 end of the Edo era and the absorption of Western technical influence.  Three items whose quality exemplifies the precision and workmanship of this period were purchased at the Paris 1867 exposition by the South Kensington Museum, predecessor to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.  The three also exemplify the prevailing cloisonné enamel decorative style of the period – minute, somewhat abstract flower patterns and textile brocades done in small cells of purple, red, yellow, white, and blue on a dark green ground. … In their forms, one a sake ewer, another a cylindrical three-tier nested food box, and the third a string of ten ojime beads, all traditional Japanese items suitable for sale in the domestic market…”  

 I wonder if the string of ten ojime resembles the other Japanese beads found in in the U.K. by Stefany Tomalin and worth1010 on eBay?  The Victoria & Albert museum website lists their accession number, but states they're in storage and provides no picture.

In color plate Fig.8 he illustrates netsuke and ojime with opaque enamels dated to the 19th-early 20th centuries, similar to the set quoted from Irvine's book above.

A further reference to cloisonné beads is on page 189:

“An early twentieth century Ando Japanese-language flier, circa 1904, advertised rings, bracelets, hairpins, hair ornaments, combs, hatpins, cuff links, buttons, buckles, pin, and beads, made to the customer’s design, so there must have been demand in the domestic market and/or from retailers for resale to foreigners, although few such pieces marked Ando survive.”

For those interested, a quick flyover of Japanese cloisonne is provided by the Victoria & Albert Museum.

UPDATE: Some more examples of Japanese beads, plus a link to the Internet Archive for The Industries of Japan: Together with an Account of its Agriculture, Forestry, Arts and Commerce, from Travels and Researches Undertaking at the Cost of the Prussian Government, by Johann Justus Rein, published in New York by A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1889.  Pages 492 onward contain a rare detailed account of the Japanese cloisonne manufacturing technique.



Ojime-style beads strung on inro cord, possibly as a belt or necklace.  Intricate beads incorporated into a necklace with gold chain and red jade pendant (back of pendent view; front features a squirrel and peaches)
UPDATE:   U.K. eBay vendor buckinghamshire_antiques discovered two Japanese cloisonne plates that seem to be excellent illustrations of the 1870s style described above in the quote from Fredric Schneider.  
Notice the small clouds forming a background pattern on the morning glory plate that appear to be identical, in both shape and arrangement, to the pink clouds on the turquoise ojime pictured above.






UPDATE:  More stunning examples of cloisonne ojime from the collection of Frederick Chavez can be found at the beadcollector.net forum in two posts here.  Click through and view these, they are not to be missed!

UPDATE: ParadeAntiquesBlog has a set of 6 pictures of a "c1860 Kaji Tsunekichi Style Japanese Cloisonne Vase."  Note the arrangement of the little cloud motifs (between the two shiny reflections).
Be sure to view the other 5 pictures!
UPDATE: Another beadcollector.net thread, comparing doro shippo and 1868 Meiji cloisonne beads, with fabulous examples from the collection of Frederick Chavez.