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Instituted: March 21, 2024

Traditional Crafts Returned from Space Transformed into One-of-a-Kind Traditional Artwork


Traditional Crafts Returned from Space Transformed into One-of-a-Kind Traditional Artwork

Miraculous collaboration comes to fruition between Gyokusendo, successors to the art of hammered copperware, Wakuni Shoten, a craft brand that shapes sheet metal, and Kengo Kuma & Associates, a world-renowned architectural & urban design firm.


Tokyo—Space BD, a leading Japanese space startup, in a collaboration with Gyokusendo, a hammered copperware workshop in Niigata Prefecture, Wakuni Shoten, a sheet metal brand located in Higashimurayama City in Tokyo Prefecture, and Kengo Kuma & Associates, a name renowned in architecture around the world, has produced a one-of-a-kind traditional artwork. This work uses special copper plates that were launched into space through the Space BD space use project on Wednesday, March 15, 2023, and spent several months exposed to space.


Expected form of final artwork


The story of this magnificent project began with a meeting with Gyokusendo, who have their workshop in Niigata. Space BD planned an experimental trial in which Gyokusendo’s copper plates crafted using techniques with a history of more than 200 years would be exposed to outer space, and then the physical properties of the copper plates would be verified upon their return to earth. Later, Wakuni Shoten, a brand who have refined their sheet metal techniques in Higashimurayama City in Tokyo Prefecture, joined us as collaborators in this project. Finally, Kengo Kuma & Associates, who worked on the architecture for the Wakuni Shoten Café, also joined the team in the role of designing the actual work of art, rounding out this miraculous collaboration.


Gyokusendo hammered out 4 copper plates, which were safely returned to earth, for the main focus of the work, and the craftspeople at Wakuni Shoten created the base out of recycled materials (green-blue copper sheets) from the exterior walls of demolished shrines. Kengo Kuma & Associates created the design that brings together the copper plates of Gyokusendo and the base made of exterior wall material of Wakuni Shoten, and as a result transformed the combined crafts into a beautiful work of art emanating a sense of the mystery of space. This artwork is scheduled for general sale around the end of 2024. (Price: not yet determined)



■ Reference

The entire process from the launch into space through the return to earth was conducted through a service (Space Delivery Project “RETURN to EARTH”) mainly run by Space BD that makes use of the small simple exposure experiment device (ExBAS) installed in the medium exposure experiment adapter (i-SEEP) of the ISS Kibo.


▼Space Delivery Project – RETURN to EARTH – Introduction Video

Gyokusendo copper plates (Top: Before going to space. Bottom: After returning to earth)



■ About Gyokusendo

One of the world’s leading metalworking centers: Tsubame. Its roots are in the early Edo Period, and it began with the making of Japanese nails. In the late Edo Period a traveling artisan from Sendai brought the hammered copperware manufacturing method to Tsubame, where it was passed on to Kakubei Tamagawa, the founder of Gyokusendo, in 1816. Superior-quality copper was supplied from nearby Mt. Yahiko, and copper metalworking flourished in Tsubame.

Gyokusendo manufactured copperware for daily use (various pots and kettles), and gradually added artisanal elements. In 1873, Gyokusendo exhibited its wares at the World Exposition in Vienna, the first world exposition in which Japan participated. Gyokusendo went on to receive approx. 30 awards at expositions in Japan and around the world before WWII. In 1894, a single-flower vase was presented to the Emperor Meiji to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his grand wedding, and this led to the custom of presenting Gyokusendo wares to the imperial family for their celebrations.


■ About Wakuni Shoten

This brand is based in Higashimurayama City, Tokyo Prefecture. Wakuni Shoten is a craft brand of Uchino Bankin Inc., which works with sheet metal for roofs and exterior walls, etc. Sheet metal origami cranes are loved by many fans around the world. Since 2022, Wakuni Shoten has held workshops on sheet metal origami crane making at schools, embassies, and public institutions in France and Germany to introduce Japanese culture, the meaning of origami cranes, and sheet metal technology to people around the world. Wakuni Shoten opened a café in Higashimurayama City in early 2024 that welcomes the community while aspiring to pass on sheet metal techniques and energize the local community.


■ About Kengo Kuma & Associates

Kengo Kuma & Associates is a design and architectural firm represented by Kengo Kuma. Several hundred design professionals, in Japan and overseas, belong to the firm, and each uses their talents to create new trends around the world. Kengo Kuma & Associates are engaged primarily in architectural design, but also cover a wide range of design including interior design and the design of tableware, furniture, and accessories. Hundreds of projects are in progress, more than half of which are overseas. Kengo Kuma & Associates has activities across 30 countries. Recently, the firm has also been working on an increasing number of interior design and product development projects, and are developing new areas of business.


■ About Space BD

We at Space BD are a one-stop provider of solutions for those in the space utilization field. Not only can we deliver payloads to space by a variety of methods and facilitate the use of International Space Station assets, but we can also assist with everything from business plans to hands-on technical operations. As of November 2023, Space BD’s performance record marked over 70 satellite projects and over 450 orders.