Craftsman Takeji Nakagawa, aka "Take-G," doesn't simply make "toys." Rather, he creates tributes to childhood, nature and the future. The artisan crafts things like animals and futuristic robots out of four types of wood: keyaki (a Japanese tree of the genus Zelkova), teak, walnut and white ash. These four types of wood are joined through a traditional handicraft process called yosegi-mokuzougan (joined wooden block construction), and the different types of woods and different textures create lively patterns. Individual parts are fitted, glued and held in place with a vice while they dry. Other parts are carefully fitted in individual slots. (Click images for detail.)
"I often get asked 'Why do you make robots with wood?,'" says Nakagawa. "I don't really have an exact answer for it but I often relate my robots with 'future.'" For Nakagawa, the future isn't a place filled with metal and skyscrapers, but with trees. "I don't think humans can live without trees no matter what advances technology makes," he adds. "When I think of 'future,' I cannot help thinking of 'past' at the same time. Trees take a long time (tens and hundreds years) to grow and show us their beauty (the product of their past). I think that I have responsibilities as a craftsman and an artist of breathing new life into these trees. I have a job to link 100 years in the past and 100 years in the future through my work. These are my values toward my work."
The workshop is run by Nakagawa and his wife. Each individual piece is created by hand. For those interested in purchasing his artistic work, Nakagawa insists that the customer see his work first hand and not just photos. Prices run from $50 to $6000. These are not sold online. He also sells straight-up toys: blocks and zoo animals. They cost from $36 to $345 and are available via the internet. He points out, "Please remember most of crafts I make are an art not actually 'toys' except a few products." They're all art, Nakagawa-san, every single one.
by Brian Ashcraft