Silver Kanzashi (Ornamental Hairpin) Artist, Atelier Hana e
Kanzashi can be dated back to 131 B.C.E. or the Jomon period (approximately 15,000 years ago).
Kanzashi is an ornamental hairpin for women, and in ancient Japan, it was believed that a thin stick with a sharp edge has magical power and was apparently used as an amulet.
Oiran (courtesan), who were regarded as fashion leaders in the Edo period, especially loved kanzashi; gorgeous hair styles with 3 to 4 kanzashi decorated on each side of a head became popular, and kanzashi came to be a must-have for women when dressing up.
Today, convenience and functionality of kanzashi attract attention; one kanzashi is enough to make an updo. And because kanzashi with non-traditional designs started to be made, it is used as a hair accessory which can be used with Japanese clothes as well as Western clothes.
Atelier Hana e makes silver kanzashi in Kyoto. All her works are carefully handmade. The silver kanzashi artiest Hana e creates kanzashi hoping that this Japanese traditional hairpin would be a part of the modern-day fashion and would be the accessory to be used for a long time. We interviewd her about the production method and her thoughts.
Atelier Hana e’s silver Kanzashi, recognized by Maiko in Kyoto
What triggered you to create silver kanzashi?
In the beginning, I was designing wedding dresses but I used to feel a bit sorry that those dresses can only be worn by women who are to be married and not for single women, and that the dresses are worn only for a moment.
I always felt that I wanted to create something that can be cherished for a very long time, that can be inherited to the next generation.
I live in Kyoto, the center for the Japanese culture; it made me want to do something with Japanese clothes. And if I were to make something, I thought I wanted to make obidome (obi belt retainer) or kanzashi for maiko, the living history of Kyoto. That is how I came to create kanzashi.
Tell us about the most memorable moment for you since you entered this world.
I always thought that the best obidome would be the one for maiko! I held the personal exhibition every year in Kamishichiken (one of hanamachi or the red-light districts in Kyoto) so my works would catch the attention of maiko. As a result, I create obidome and kanzashi for geiko or maiko now. It was hard to get in the world of maiko, but I am very glad and honored that they recognized my works.
Efforts she made for historical kanzashi to be used in present-day
Tell us in detail about creating silver kanzashi.
I make not only kanzashi but many things as my work, including obidome and accessories, so the time it takes for me to make products depends, but I guess I can used this one as an example…
This is made-to-order kanzashi for a shamisen (a three-stringed musical instrument similar to a guitar) teacher; I started from designing it. Pine, bamboo and plum as well as wisteria and chrysanthemum are designed on this kanzashi. This customer’s shamisen school has the pine crest, so I wanted to use that as a motif. And if I were to use pine, I definitely wanted to make it auspicious and to use bamboo and plum as well. I also used wisteria which was her family crest, and placed 3 corals, which were associated to her name, close to pine, bamboo and plum to make them look like an apricot, and sprinkled pearls to balance them well. To make it look more gorgeous, I decorated chrysanthemum; I decided on this design so the customer can use it regardless of the season. This design can be used any time of the year. You will never know when the shamisen recitals or special occasions (hare no hi) would take place.
When the design is fixed, I put a paper with the design on a silver plate, and cut the silver plate out accordingly.
Next I put a hole on it and cut out the design with a fret saw to create the inner part.
When that is done, I polish it with a file. The cut end is sharp, and I polish it well so that it does not hurt anyone. I smooth out the cut end.
And by hitting it with a wooden hammer, I curve it to fit a head of a person.
It could take a lot of time to design it, since I continue to fix the design until the customer who ordered it would like it.
Are you particular about materials as well?
As for silver, the material for kanzashi, I use silver 950. The number 950 signifies the percentage of silver content (purity), and that 95% of it is silver. 5% is precious metal such as copper. Sometimes I get asked by customers, “isn’t it 100% silver?”; but when it is 100% it would be too flexible and would be damaged easily which is not suitable for accessories or kanzashi. Not many people know about it☺
What are the best charm about your works or what you would like to communicate to the world?
I have products named MON series, which use kamon (family crest) as a motif; I would like customers to feel the simplicity and the beauty of kamon. Kamon is traditional Japanese patterns created by the ancient people, and apparently, there are about 20,000 different designs. Flowers, animals and letters…many things are patterned. The simple ones to a bit complicated ones…if you start looking closely at them, it is very profound! For example, there is a pattern which looks like a flower of Chinese bellflower; each petal of Chinese bellflower is a shape of a crane with its wings spread and combined with the one next to it (photo on the left), or it could look like a star but when you take a closer look, there are 5 fans combined (photo on the right) …I was drawn to its loveliness and beauty, and put kamon on kanzashi or earrings. The earrings I am wearing now have kamon too! My necklace, too, is of kamon with wisteria as a motif!! Lovely, isn’t it☺ They match clothes very well too, right? I also make kamon bracelets or pin brooches as well! I make chic accessories which combine something historical and something in present-day. I do not wish them to be used only by those who wear Japanese clothes just because it is kamon. I would like everyone to wear kamon they like☺
What do you care the most about your work?
To meet people! I often attend my own exhibition as well. By doing that, what I want to make has changed. By meeting people, I have come to realize what those who use my products would want.
Please tell us what you are planning to do in the future.
I would like to continue creating products which can only be made by artisans, by collaborating with other artisans in Kyoto. I would like to keep on creating something which can be loved and used in present-day by preserving what is good about the traditional crafts in Kyoto as well as by evolving what can be evolved.
Atelier Hana e The silver kanzashi artist
Atelier Hana e The silver kanzashi artist
She started to create kanzashi and kamon (family crest) jewelry since 2005 in Kyoto. Today, she creates made-to-order products for customers and silver ornaments for geiko and maiko, while selling them in the personal exhibitions or special events at department stores. Her works are exhibited overseas as well.