Sunday, September 29, 2013


I hope to write about my good friend, Masanori Minami, and of my relationship with him.  He was an artist, a well known painter in the traditional Nihonga style, even though he lost both of his arms at the shoulders when a boy.  Becoming a mouth painter, initially by way of training with a Buddhist nun that had also lost her arms, his story beyond that point of having suffered a devastating injury, is one of perseverance, strength, and fine achievement.

Over the last number of years, Masanori was in poor health, and contemplating that his time remaining was likely short, he asked me to design and construct the butsudan for his home.  Beyond acknowledging the request, I barely considered the project at the time, he was too dear to me to much want to consider his death, but as it turned out, his life came to an end sooner than was expected, and my friend's wife confirmed that she wanted me to build the altar for them.  Her desire was to have the butsudan incorporated with stained glass, accented by a light inside, and overall of a relatively uncomplicated design.

It was a challenging project for me, both figuring out what I wanted to do for appropriateness, along with the technical requirements. The four softly curving glass panels in the front and rear needed to be removable in the event of damage.  Japan has frequent earthquakes, so over years of use, damage occurring is an unfortunate possibility.

 I had a quantity of both Claro and Black Walnut that I had been keeping for many years, some beautiful representation of both woods in the deep color and grain pattern that can make this material so wonderful for woodwork .  I had been saving the wood for what I hoped would at some point be a special and worthy use.  I am deeply saddened by the loss of my good friend, certainly among the individuals that I have met during my life that I have found to be both greatly enjoyable and also inspirational.  He was a man that was loved by many, and it is my hope that the butsudan will contribute to his memory in a supportive way.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cherry Wood

A lady and her friend each wanted a small simple cabinet with an open space at the top, and some other specifics about drawers and a door with the space behind.  I used some very nice Black Cherry that I was fortunate to find.  Not a complicated cabinet, but I did have some considerations integrating the allowable movement solid wood construction with the design requirements.  The area of the country in which the cabinets will be used, is considerably damper during certain times of the year, compared to where I live and work.

Of the many types of hardwoods that I normally build furniture out of, I would say that Cherry is one of the more predictable ones to work with.

Delivering the work enabled a rare trip down to Shikoku in southern Japan, a place that has some amazing feats of engineering highway bridges.