What Is Guribori & Mokume Gane? The Ancient and Modern History

Posted by Arn Krebs on

Guribori is generally thought to be the origin of Mokume-Gane. Guribori is the metalsmithing technique that involves alternating many different color metals and carving curves and spiral patterns inspired by lacquer work in China.

The modern story of Mokume Gane and Guribori involves the husband and wife team Eugene Michael Pijanowski and Hiroko Sato Pijanowski who brought Mokume Gane to the US in the early 1970's after learning the technique from ninth generation metalsmith Norio Tamagawa. There is rich history around Mokume Gane which could lead into many texts. Here is a brief overview of how Guribori came to be by Hiroko Sato Pijanowski & Gene Michael Pijanowski

They explained the history of Guribori in this published text which we will quote below and link to here© Hiroko Sato Pijanowski & Gene Michael Pijanowski

 "Mokume-Gane was innovated by Denbei Shoami (1651-1728), who lived and worked most of his life in Akita Prefecture of Northwest Japan. He was a superb craftsman who was given permission to use the name Shoami from Shoam School, which started in Kyoto in the late 1500's. He was also supported by Satake who was then Kaimyo (feudal lord) in the Akita area. Mokume-Gane was Shoami's invention, but it was only one facet of his work. It should be realized that he was also a historically important craftsman who produced excellent examples in steel, of sword furniture, and sword fittings with carving and inlay. At first, Shoami named his technique Guri Bori because the pattern on his first nonferrous Mokume-Gane tsuba was like Guri, which is one of the Tsuishu techniques in lacquer work (Urshi), originating in ancient China. Tsuishu is one of the techniques where patterns are achieved by carving into thick layers of different colored lacquer; when line patterns are created, it is referred to as Guri. From sword making influences Denbei Shoami found that nonferrous laminates could be joined together to create patterns similar to lacquer work. He later named this pattern Mokume-Gane. His oldest work in Mokume-Gane was used in the Kizuka (sword hilt) using gold, silver, Shakudo, and copper. This technique was also called Itame-Gane or Yosefuki. There is no doubt that Denbei Shoami was influenced by the swordsmith and adapted those principles of forge welding to begin Mokume-Gane."



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