In 1951, Isamu Noguchi visited the town of Gifu, Japan, known for its manufacture of lanterns and parasols made from mulberry bark paper and bamboo. Noguchi designed the first of his lamps to be produced by the traditional construction methods of Gifu. He referred to these works as Akari, a term meaning light as illumination but also implying the idea of weightlessness.
Traditions of Japanese Gifu
The manufacture of Akari in Japan at Ozeki & Co. has been following traditional methods for Japanese Gifu lanterns since 1951. Each Akari is handcrafted, starting with the making of washi paper from the inside bark of the mulberry tree. Bamboo ribbing is stretched across sculptural moulded wood shapes. The washi paper is cut into strips and glued to both sides of the frame. Once the glue has dried and the shape is set, the inside of the wood is disassembled and removed. The result is a resilient paper form, which can be broken down and packed flat for shipping.
Use of Traditional Methods
Isamu Noguchi used traditional Japanese materials to bring modern design to his home with the warm glow of light from the handmade paper on a bamboo frame. Like the beauty of falling leaves and cherry blossoms, Noguchi wrote, Akari is “poetic, ephemeral, and tentative.” And he said, “All you need to get home is a room, a tatami, and Akari.”
Akari Light Sculptures. The Noguchi Museum. https://shop.noguchi.org/collections/akari-light-sculptures.
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