Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Putting the Kana in Kanazawa

In Japanese Kana means gold, and Kanazawa is in fact very famous for its gold production. At least it's famous for its gold leaf production.

In fact in modern times, 99% of all the gold leaf used for anything in Japan; statues, screens, pottery, and other such things, comes from Kanazawa. The city is rather gold leaf mad actually, and you can find all sorts of crazy products involving our most favorite export.

Gold leaf soap? Gold leaf tea? Ice cream? Stickers? Chopsticks?

Ah, but gold leaf chopsticks, not *that* is less a strange souvenir and more a useful and beautiful object d'art. And lucky me, I got a chance to make my own gold leaf covered chopsticks last Saturday.

We started with plain black plastic hashii, and used an exacto knife to cut masking tape into the design we wanted. For ease and simplicity, most people chose a variant of candy cane stripes. More elaborate designs are certainly possible, but you don't have a lot of space to work on, using the top third of a chopstick. I went with a nice random collection of 2 cm strips of tape. It was pretty easy, and it looks good.

Then, you brush glue on your design, and let it sit for 5 minutes. After the glue comes the tricky party, actually putting the gold leaf on your chopstick. I was sitting closest to the instructor, so I got to be the guinea pig. Lucky me.

If you've never handled gold leaf before, picture a sliver of gold far thinner than a piece of paper. It is so fragile that to touch it is to destroy it. It will literally dissolve in your hands. If you breathe to hard, as I did, it will billow up, out alignment and make it very difficult to evenly distribute it on your chopsticks!

Despite the difficulty, once it was all done my chopsticks came out looking very nice. They were cheaper than the store bought versions, and they are all mine. Of course these are most certainly NOT dishwasher safe!

A side note, this is my 200th Post! Wow, 200 articles of varying importance and interest over almost 2 years. How time flies when you are having fun ;-).


Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zach said...

I like the first pic quite a bit. Dynamico!
(previous comment deleted because I misspelled Dynamico. Spanish is hard)

Victoria said...

Nice job - where were you that you got to gold leaf a pair of chopsticks? I don't remember that as being an option where we went.

Travelingrant said...

Yeah, it was a different Gold Leaf shop, close to the Higashi Geisha District.

Robyn said...

Congrates on the 200 posts... i'll get there someday! Keep up the great work! :)
Wow, gold leaf chopsticks... wish i could use the plain old wooden ones!