krash japan


krashjapan special project

masahiro kawabe in taxco,mexico
"Wouldn't it be fun to open a street stall somewhere?"
This proposal was made by the editor- in-chief of KJ, which is yours truly. The one who was being asked was Masahiro Kawabe, a creator of accessories introduced in vol. 4"VIVA SHIMOTSUI," who carves rings out of stainless steel nuts. It all began in a Kojima café, Womb, where KJ's editorial office was previously located. The idea suddenly popped out from an idle conversation.
"Why not let people see the process of making the rings, instead of just selling them."
"That sounds fun."
"Might as well do it somewhere overseas."
Casually mentioning going out of the country proved I wasn't that serious. Where was I going to find that kind of money anyway?But then, where in this whole wide world was there an artist who thinks of making a ring out of a nut (purely handmade without the aid of machinery)? I was interested, to a certain extent, how this unique idea, advanced skills, and quality of work would be accepted abroad. "Where, overseas, do you think it should be?"
"London and Paris doesn't sound right. It isn't LA or NY, either…hey, how about Mexico?"
Autumn 2008, approximately a year after this irresponsible chatter took place, the three of us, Kawabe and I, along with photographer Masahiro Ikeda, took off from Kansai Airport to Mexico. This tour to Mexico became reality merely by impulse before we knew it. Kawabe was probably the most stunned among us. At 32 years old, this was his first time out of the country.

The third morning after leaving Japan, we boarded a long distance bus in Mexico City and headed south. Four hours later, a town of houses with whitewashed walls and orange tile roofs closely covering an entire surface of a steep slope appeared. The sight of Taxco, our destination, was truly breathtaking.
This town which flourished as one of Mexico's silver producing districts still has many stores that sell silver products and is a popular tourist destination. The town is about half the size of Kojima (population 30,000). It had a good rustic old look that fell far short from the sophistication of Mexico City, therefore bringing us comfort. We went out into the town shortly after our arrival. A three hour stroll told us that there was hardly any space to set up a stall to display Kawabe's work and its process. "Zocaro," an open space located in the center of town which we marked as a possible candidate on the map was not the kind of place where a street stall could be set up without proper permission. "What do we do now?" Both Kawabe who was being asked this question as well as I who asked it were totally lost, as we sat together on a bench at the Zocaro.
Partly lost, we entered a café, never expecting that the answer to our problem awaited us there.

The café was on an alley that runs right next to Santa Prisca Church, which has every luxury imaginable from the mid-18th century and was located in the center of the town. The level narrow alley surrounded by the church wall and stores had posts on its south end preventing cars from entering. This allowed the alley to remain quiet, but the flow of local people and tourists never stopped. "Dora's Café" was the name of the place. Walking past a narrow entrance lined with souvenirs on display, a spacious bright space facing a courtyard appeared. There we were greeted.
"Hey guys, how are you doing?"
The first native English we heard since reaching Mexico. The voice was that of a man occupying a table by the window with features that reminded me of Nick Nolte. He was wearing his hair in a ponytail which became him. He introduced himself as Storm. We later learned that Storm had immigrated from Canada and was one of the foreign customers who regularly gathered at the café. We returned his greeting, told him we were from Japan, and that we were having trouble finding a place for Kawabe to open a street stall.
"Do it in front of this store, then.
He said carelessly, then immediately started making arrangements with David, the owner of the café (Dora was the name of his wife). David, who was Mexican, appeared with a bottle of beer in his hand offering to help with a smile.
"Of course it's OK. You can use the tables or chairs or whatever's available here. Let me know if there's anything more you need."
We got hold of the best location under the best conditions on the day we arrived in Taxco.

Day one of business: At 9 in the morning, we set up a table outside of Dora's Café to display Kawabe's works. Each piece of work carried a price tag that was prepared the previous day. A sentence introducing Kawabe translated into Spanish by David was also displayed. Last but not least, the vise we carried from Japan was attached to the end of the table.
"Can I start filing?"
Kawabe asked as soon as we were set up.
"I haven't filed for nearly a week now, and I can hardly wait."
The metallic sound made by the rasp echoed through the quiet morning alley. It was the sound of a stick shaped rasp smoothing the gap inside a nut. Next, a flat rasp was used to file away the corners of the hexagon. There was no excess movement in Kawabe's motions who has been doing only this for the last decade. Soon the tourists started showing up here and there, and there were often people around the table to watch. Every time a guest showed up, Kawabe would show them a brand new nut and explain the process of his work by gesture. When that was done, he went back to filing again. He spent all afternoon filing and by dusk the pieces were ready for polishing. It was an image "that came to mind after arriving in Mexico" put into shape. Storm commented staring at the ring which he held in his hand:
"Beautiful. There's no beginning or end."
His words precisely described the distinctive characters of the design of Kawabe's rings. This must have made Kawabe realize that there was somebody in Mexico that understood his work in depth.

Day two, Kawabe's work speeded up. The ring he started working on that morning was finished by two in the afternoon. He immediately began working on a second ring for that day.
It was a Saturday, and the number of people who stopped to watch outnumbered that of the previous day. There were positive reactions. "Bonito! (Beautiful!)" person after person said when they saw the rings on the table. However, even with the reasonable price that took into consideration the locale, no sale was made.
As it turned out, there were no sales for the first two days. That did not slow down Kawabe. His expression was rather livelier. Sunday, the last day, Kawabe spoke while preparing to open the street stall: "I feel we'll make a sale today.
He was right. A Japanese woman who was on vacation in Taxco from the Dominican Republic came to order a ring the moment we began business. A Japanese person learns of Kawabe for the first time in a remote corner of Mexico and wears his ring-----. I later learned that Kawabe was deeply touched with this wonderful encounter. This first order seemed to be the cue, for in the afternoon a native Taxco silver smith bought a necklace, followed by an American female tourist who purchased a ring. (Kawabe had finished filing his third ring of the day by that time.) In addition, a French female tourist purchased a ring and a bracelet at dusk near then end of trade.
Kawabe, of course, was pleased that his accessories were sold. Supersed ing that was his feeling of great relief that he was able to complete three works inspired by Mexico.
"I was worried that I might not come up with anything. I'm surprised that I was able to finish three works. This town was really stimulating, and there couldn't have been a better location than this. I'd like to thank David, Dora, and Storm from the bottom of my heart.

Morning on the following day, which was a Monday, Kawabe concen trated on polishing his three rings at the hotel balcony. He also did so- from early morning Tuesday. Finally, in the afternoon that day, all each titled "chaos," "vivo," and "stone alley."
David, as usual, was drinking his seventh or eighth bottle of beer of that day. Storm joined us shortly. The two were wearing the necklaces and bracelets Kawabe gave them as a present on Sunday right after closing our street stall. The two looked at the three rings admiringly and said, "we're happy that such a wonderful work was completed in this town."
After that, we did nothing in particular, but hung around at the café until the sun went down. Dora's café was as comfortable as if you were at home, and the people there felt like your long-time friends.