#31 NAOKI KUSUMI


Naoki Kusumi is a third generation traditional plaster artisan or “Sakan” in Japanese. His work ranges from projects at commercial buildings, residences, and educational facilities to restoration of Japanese treasures including Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto. Naoki is not only acclaimed in Japan but also in many foreign countries and his recent work includes an event at the United Nations in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Japan’s membership in the UN.

Photo: http://www.kusuminaoki.com/html/index_en.html

Interview with Naoki Kusumi

– Please tell us about Sakan professionals.

Kusumi:

Simply speaking, Sakan professionals are plaster artisans who make walls for buildings and houses by taking ordinary clay and making it look textured - sometimes like wood or stone.

I was born and grew up on Awaji Island. In such a rural area, after carpenters make a body structure for a house, we, Sakan professionals, then weave bamboo and paste clays in many layers to make the walls. This is part of our work as Sakan professionals.

workshop with Tama Art University (2015, Tokyo)

Photo: http://www.kusuminaoki.com/html/index_en.html

This profession can be traced back to around the 7th century, Asuka era. It is believed when they started to work for aristocrats during that time, they were given a rank called “Sakan”, as people who served the palace needed some title.

– You decided to become a Sakan professional after looking at a work of architecture by Antoni Gaudi when you were 18 years old. What part of the work of Sakan professionals attracts you the most?

Kusumi:

I’m the third generation of a traditional Sakan family. My father wanted me to learn this special skills, and he gave me intensive training ever since I was little. It was a daily routine that my younger brother and I practiced plastering a wall the size of one tatami mat (approximately 6 feet long and 3 feet wide) under our father’s instructions before dinner. When our schools were closed for l