“The fate of all of us here has been to know that we are prisoners of power. No one knows why us in particular, but what a great fortune!”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Kumiko Unfolding – Part 6: Andon Lamp as a Canvas


Satisfied with the experiment of the first asa-no-ha pattern I wanted to continue. I wanted to get more practice under my belt. But just making more asa-no-ha patterns didn’t feel appealing. I wanted to make something that would include the asa-no-ha pattern.

Of all the Kumiko examples I’ve seen, Andon lamps were most appealing to me. They are small and contained works, they offer (what seems to me now like) an endless space for exploration, they are beautiful and functional … and maybe there are people out there who want them (there are only so many lamps we need in our small house).

The lamp journey started with the frame itself. Since I still only had pine-ish wood I decided to make the frame charred & oiled and the patterns natural wood.

The frame presented new challenges in terms of precision and joinery. I chose to do traditional mortise & tenon joinery which was tricky because the pieces are small and the soft wood is prone to splitting. I sharpened my chisels and set out to explore my first real venture into proper joinery.

After cutting the joinery I tried out the new torch for charring and then oiling. I managed to build and assemble a frame of decent accuracy (though it does wobble a bit):

I could now take precise measurements and plan the kumiko pattern. This sent me on another tangent. I tried drawing by hand to get a rough sense of the pattern possibilities but felt that was not good enough for me to really sense the pattern. So I explored 2D cad options for Ubuntu and landed on LibreCad. A simple, but not intuitive (for me) application that required a learning curve and then formulating a basic strategy for me to put it to good use. I then had a pattern I which gave me the measurements I needed to get on with the Kumiko.

I had enough kumiko strips to build the grids, but not enough to fill them with the patterns. This blocked me … I had developed a slight aversion to cutting strips. This was when I decided to try cutting strips sitting on the floor (as I imagined a traditional Japanese maker would):

… and that worked well enough to cut the additional strips I would need to finish the patterns.

This time I felt more familiar and fluent in creating the asa-no-ha pattern (and they took much less time to make). An equivalent of 6 asa-no-ha went into the lamp:

Because of imperfections in the squaring of the frame I had to shave off the sides of the panels to custom fit each one into a specific side of the frame. But suddenly I had 4 panels … and I encountered shoji paper and glue for the first time … and the 4 panels were covered and the lamp was assembled:

The lamp is standing, and has replaced, where a candle holder was. Now it, instead of a candle, is lit during my Yoga practice.

I cannot communicate enough (probably because I don’t fully understand yet) how impactful the presence of this lamp is for me. It is the first thing I’ve created since moving to Bhudeva that was created to be, first and foremost, beautiful. Sitting regulalry, as a matter of fact, next to it, I feel it is speaking to me and guiding me.

I want to make more “of this”.

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