Who speaks craft? It is a connotation uttered loosely by many a tinker.  
Nowadays, its premise seems to be one of sincere understanding. Think slow processes, carefully nurtured and meticulously observed. In this, one can easily forget the enigmatic power of touch, yielded by the true artisan’s hand. Through this, items are born and not forged, it gives birth to pieces that attempt to trigger us instead of seeking out whom to follow. 

The work of Takayoshi Yamanami, the elegant self-thought conductor of DETAJ, speaks calmly, from the heart, contemplating his every word. As in his work, he knows when to be silent, when to engage and how to listen to the world. In histucked away atelier on the fringes of downtown Osaka, he diligently conducts his jewelry experiments, through a remarkable process of constant trial and error. It is in his continuous patience to try and re-try, that so much beauty can be found. Takayoshi will never shout, his singular whispers already reach out confidently. Perhaps craft therefore simply is how we choose to exert it? 

Beginnings. Dear Takayoshi, could you describe your upbringing in Japan and what initially led you towards being a creator?

When I was small, I was often going through my father's tool box who was a turner (ed. shaping objects on a lathe) and I often made knives to sharpen pencils out of nails found in his workshop. It was here, where I believe I first learned the sensation of hammering and making things flat and grading them over time. As a curious young man, I remember that I made a lot of these since this was so much fun to me. 

After graduating from university, I started to become more interested in fashion, which initially led me to work for a shoe company but I left there a year later, as it was not for me. The next step I took, was when I started to work for a shop ( originally this was a variety store then after I joined it gradually became a multi label fashion store) which my friend opened. That is where I learned how to run a business. During this time, I also acted as the sole buyer for the shop. This made me realize, that I was always struggling to find suitable jewelry. Which is what indeed led me to think of actually making jewelry myself. The first piece was made of aluminum engraved entirely by hand. Although the collection was very small, I got a very good feedback which was a great pleasure for me.
If we look at the foundation of my work with DETAJ, there was a clear moment when this all began. I clearly remember this. The year 1995 was a big turning point for me, because of the great Hanshin earthquake. The damage was enormous, it devastated so many communities. We simply could not continue to work and we even thought about reconstructing the shop from zero. The emotional sight of the completely ravaged city of Kobe, triggered something inside of me. Suddenly, my feeling for constructing something new became even stronger. This is how DETAJ was born.  

still from sound installation DETAJ x Ryo Murakami 

still from sound installation DETAJ x Ryo Murakami 

Osaka.  After this difficult time, this turned out to be your new-found home. Could you tell me how you initially got settled?

Indeed, Osaka is the town where my creations were first accepted. It proved to be a strong foundation for my work. As you might know, Kobe and Osaka are not that far apart, but both have a most different nature. The reason to move to Osaka, came to me since people were more open minded, creative and likely to accept new ways of thinking. As, I do not like the hustle and bustle of the city, I set up an atelier close by an historical overpass bridge away from the center. I really like this quiet area called Kitahama, where a lot of historical buildings still remain. My atelier is like a little cave situated at the end of the shop I run (ed. 24th of August). The minimum amount of tools needed for the production and the experimental samples are all mixed up in this small space of about 15m2. It is truly a space where everything is within reach from my working table.  For me, that is the understated environment I needed to concentrate and perform in my work.

A new horizon, this must have meant many new visualizations. Do you draw a lot of inspiration from what surrounds you? 

If I look outside, I really like the motorway viaduct which was developed over the historical bridge, in a rather bizarre manner. Next to this, I also like the contrast and the texture of its reflection on the water. This tactile nature and sense of massiveness in my jewelry might actually be quite influenced by this. In my life, I do find myself spending most of my time at the atelier and at home, as I prefer a sense of quiet around me. However, I am surrounded by very unique people and I often go to the events and exhibitions they curate. Almost none of them are fashion related; it is a wonderful mix of architects, interior designers, cooks, furniture makers, accountants.... We do our own things; but a common sense of beauty and a set of certain values exist amongst us. It is those little things noticed or sensed in daily life that give me inspiration.

still from sound installation DETAJ x Ryo Murakami 

still from sound installation DETAJ x Ryo Murakami 

The pieces you craft emerge after a long deliberate process. How did you come to master these skills?

Well, I taught myself completely. In the atelier, I have prepared the minimum amount of tools to be able to realize what I want to achieve. After many trials this forms into a shape. The left over bits from each trial lead to new techniques. There are literally mountains of wreckages from trials in the drawers of my working table. Whenever I feel stuck, I always explore the drawer and dig into the remnants of previous experiments. The accumulation of these bits and bobs, is the true source of new processes. When I observe these wrecked pieces, by just looking at them; I can tell for each one of them; the temperature of the burner, which hammer was used and easily commence in a visualization of how I set out to make them. If I look back at my process for such items, it often takes me back to the feeling and the background context I felt at the time. If I put these sentiments together, it often gives me a powerful nod in the right direction, focussing on a next piece.  

To me, the stand-out pieces are the oxidized bandage wrap-around rings. You told me these were inspired on an actual bandage you wore whilst working in the atelier. How did you get from there to the final product?

As I work with my hands, I use bandages on a daily basis, when I get injured and also for prevention. I have always been intrigued by their color and wrinkled texture. Furthermore, I appreciate the black color and dirty bits that appear on the bandages, when buffing and polishing my designs.  One day, I impulsively wrapped a skull shaped object with bandages and found the result to be most fascinating. When I then looked down at my own hands, I felt the wrapping on my fingers was even more beautiful and immediately I started to make jewelry devoted to this. To be able to create the tension and also to preserve the beauty of the wrinkles when the fingers are bent, I wrap bandages on my fingers to make a shape. The discomfort created by this restraint should be a small price to pay for the beauty it brings. I think the nature of this wonder exists in its fusion with the body. The most important point is the sense of unity with the fingers as well as connecting them to texture. In order to reproduce it, I respected the white color of the clean bandages and made them as close as possible to the real thing. At the same time, I produced black color bandage rings which allude to its natural patina and usage over time.

In your intimate Paris exhibition, you showed me an elaborate video, marking your work step by step. How do you develop the metal treatments and seek out the eventual shapes?

In the beginning, choosing the material and the treatment are crucial in deciding the nature of the object. Therefore,talking to the material is the longest part of the entire process of making jewelry. To be able to find beauty, new texture and shape, you simply mustunderstand the character of the metal, this is crucial. That is why I insist on repeating this duration of trials and errors. Next to this, it is crucial to fully take into account the entire balance and strength of each texture. Especially, when I combine metal with other materials such as leather. Otherwise their resistance might be jeopardized. This consideration for the character and the strength of conflicting materials will eventually lead to functional beauty.

When it comes to the treatment, this gives the final personality to each piece. Most of the time, the hint to know which treatment is suitable for each piece is already hidden in the process of making it.  I think there is a law of nature that dictates the structure and characteristic beauty of all objects on this earth. Of course, I am not just talking about metal here, but of things such as gravity and air resistance, of which we are not conscious of in daily life. For example, beautiful drapes don't exist without gravity. I think it is necessary to be conscious of this phenomenon and that we should nature’s overwhelming. By believing in this and listening to the voice of the material, you can bring forth the most beautiful texture.

Sensible wear. Jewelry is also about adornment and triggering our senses. How do you see the relationship of human touch towards DETAJ’s pieces

Certainly, jewelry is indeed about triggering the senses. Special feelings are involved when people wear jewelry. The moment people accept the design and the texture, they install some kind of value on it. And for me this also works the other way round. Notably this is the case when we consider premises like the proof of a promise, the power of a symbol, or seeking ways to express authority and style..... There are various forms to connect and relate to what we wear. For me, DETAJ jewelry is more like scratches and wrinkles rather than adornment. I hope it becomes something dear to people, something they carry with them and not the other way around.

Conjure. If you feel that the pieces are more subtle and seeking natural shapes, How do you personally relate to your pieces?

To connect this, I think my design is very personal but I do not usually wear jewelry. As an artisan, I do not design for someone specific. In my work, at all times, various elements overlap, which in turn, create a certain environment or respect for circumstances. Eventually this grows and resonates within my own senses. That is how things are designed. They are connected organically and this process involves continuity. My role in this, is more that of an observant conductor, guiding the materials into shapes and textures. 

And if I asked you, what makes for a true patient artisan?

In this world, I feel there is great value in what is born out of our hands. They assert natural interaction and direct us towards an organic process. Almost no mechanical control is involved, in what I do, which alludes to an intricate balance within. The process of making one thing through the sensation of using our hands absolutely is a fully rounded experience. Already the image inside the head and the time spent talking and interacting with the material, strongly reflect the personality and sense of beauty of the creator. Isn't this sort of process and the passion craftsmanship itself?

still from sound installation DETAJ x Ryo Murakami 

still from sound installation DETAJ x Ryo Murakami 

That is indeed true. Let us close by asking me about your sentiment as a creator: do you prefer to listen or be heard?

That is another difficult question, but I would rather prefer silence. It speaks to me more. 
As a designer, I have been making jewelry for over twenty years now. From the early beginnings to the long trials and experiments, to where we are today, in the humble atelier.  As a creator, I believe more or less that I can express myself through my jewelry. As I stated before, for me the process expresses clearly how I depict the pieces’ identity and feel. In this sensory world, people have different feelings when they see things, it depends on their environment, background and various circumstances. This is not for me to dictate. Observing the world and seeking what lies beyond the surface, better qualifies my atelier.  To conclude: I think only beauty and the realness of nature speak eloquently.

For more on Takayoshi’s world: 

Special thanks to Yuki Takahashi for welcoming me into DETAJ’s world.

All images courtesy DETAJ

Text & interview by Marlo Saalmink | S/TUDIO