Montblanc - Art of Writing: Homage to Kyoto Artistry
MONTBLANC - Art of Writing: Homage to Kyoto Artistry
Montblanc started as a pen manufacturer in 1906 and has been well known for its writing instruments all over the world ever since.
It is still fresh in our memories that Montblanc did a wonderful project for Japan a few years back. It made special pens from the "Miracle Lone Pine Tree" which alone withstood the brutal force of Tsunami (2011 Great East Japan Earthqueke) among seventy thousands pine trees in the area. The lone pine tree became a symbol of hope amid devastation and thousands of lost souls. Montblanc asked the city (Rikuzen-Takata City, Iwate Prefecture) for one branch to make special pens to commemorate the event and the hope lone pine tree was giving to the people. The City agreed and Montblanc made 113 pens (the disaster happened on the 11th of March=113) to offer to Japanese pen fans, and Montblanc donated the sales revenue to the City to help reconstruct, in addition to what it had already done. The Pen was called "MEISTERSTUCK MIRACLE PINE TREE" and it all went sold out instantly. As a Japanese, it was an incredible feeling to imagine the craftsmen in Hamburg, 10,000 km away, were making the pens with the precious tree which means a lot for the people in Japan. What went through the people who made the pens in Hamburg - from the country of craftsmanship to another - I wonder.
This time, Montblanc decided to collaborate with Kyoto Kimono manufacturer "Chiso" and came up with yet another wonderful pen, not just a pen, but "art", I should say.
Chiso was founded in 1555 (thus, Limited Edition of 55) and has been making Kimono for mostly royal and noble classes. Chiso has continued its business in Kyoto as it was Japan's capitol for 1200 years from late 8th century to mid 19th century. Chiso team drew the design motif specifically for this project, paying tribute to the hundreds of years of its history and tradition. As mentioned, Kyoto has been and still is the center of Japanese culture. Having been the capitol of the country for so long, it has attracted great artists, craftsmen, as well as academics.
The main motif of the design is from "The Tale of Genji", authored by Murasaki Shikibu more than 1000 years ago, and a very long (54 volumes) love and political story of Genji, a noble class young gentleman. One copy which belongs to Chiso shows brilliant color illustration together with the text. The design was based on two of those volumes illustration.
The Kimono by Chiso uses the style called "Kyo-Yuzen", which is made through many processes including drawing with pencil on the silk textile, dying along the drawing, washing, and drying, etc. In addition, some partially use embroidery. Also, please notice the law of perspective which emphasizes the bottom part - so that you would look taller. The same perspective is used for the pen, too.
Chiso's proprietary design is relief-engraved on the body and the cap of the pen, both of which is 925 Starling Silver base, together with AU750 Rose Gold touch and fitting, and inlay work with the mother of pearl logo mark on top of the cap. Even the tip of the pen is engraved with the shape of Kimono.
.. and the venue of this event was one of the building where you cannot enter normally in the complex of the famous "Kiyomizu-dera" temple.
Q&A with Mr. Maxime Harrar, CEO of Montblanc Japan, and Mr. En Isomoto, Managing Director of Chiso. A bit long, but very worth reading, so please bear with me.
Q: What was the starting point?
-> Mr. Maxim Harrar ("MH"): Why we started? First, we started the project two years ago, started to think about the potential partnership. What was also important for us was that October last year we also did event in Kyoto for our top VIP and this kind of Kyoto event seemed very logical and natural for us. This project which started two years ago was to create the special model in between the Europe culture and Japan's culture.
-> Mr. En Isomoto ("EI"): As some of you may know, we have been in business for 462 years, making kimono by Kyo-Yuzhen. What we are most proud is that our products have been all "hand-made" - hand-written Yuzen, embroidering, all hand made. Craftsmanship was the key word and we felt that Montblanc respected what and how we were doing, so we agreed to work with Montblanc.
Q: Having been doing for a long time tradition - doing like these with foreign brands - are you going to do this more?
-> EI: As long as our way of craftsmanship is understood, and the aim is the same, we have something in common, then we want to do those things with foreign brands.
Q: Did German HQ start the project?
-> MH: No, this project was initiated by Montblanc Japan. We sent the idea to Germany and got approved to go ahead.
Q: This seems a bit different from the past Artisan series pens.
-> MH: This is tribute to the Japanese culture, worked together with the company which is the pioneer in this Kimono culture for more than 460 years. So the concept is culture itself, much stronger than one craftsman or specific skill. Very strong image is the theme.
Q: When you decided to start this, where did you start with?
-> MH: First, we had to get the data of Kimono design and send to Hamburg. This was the first time for the pen craftsman but designing for pen was the first for Chiso as well, so I want to ask that, too.
-> EI: We did not have any specific idea at first. We thought of an idea first - writing is also important to make Kimono, and Kimono design often uses stories in the past. Of many literature, we chose The tale of Gentil. We make mainly lady's Kimono while Montblanc makes things for men. So, the story of man and woman - the tale of Genji seemed to match well. There are many Kimono in the past which used the tale of Genji.
Q: Kimono is big, pen is small. Did you give some thought about it?
-> EI: it was not easy for our design team to make one for the small pen, but it was really fun for us. That is the spirit of the craftsmanship.
Q: Why sterling silver while Kimono is very colorful?
-> MH: Pen is normally monotonous color instrument most of the time. But we wanted to express the art of Kimono onto the pen - by engraving, by inlay work, by the story telling design. And that naturally led to the conclusion of the pen atelier to use sterling silver as base with touch of rose gold and MOP inlay cap. If I may add, the box for this pen will be inside is Kyo-Yuzen textile and sooo beautiful. So when you open the box, you will see that this pen is really the collaboration with Kimono design. You will feel the weight of the history as well.
Q: Why did you choose Kimono?
-> MH: People tend to think of Japan - Foods, culture, Mt. Fuji, technology, etc. But this Kimono is the center of such long and deep culture. Kimono requires such craftsmanship and skills. Kimono cannot be made anywhere else and it has such a gravity, attract people. Therefore, we thought. Kimono shows the best of Japan. I now think that was right.
Q: What Chiso people thought about the end product?
-> EI: When designing, it is two-dementional. And the end product has lots of three-dimensional, utilizing the expression of the material (sterling silver), which brought about natural light and shadow which we had not imagined, and that was realized in Germany - we are very happy about that.
Q: Didn't you go back and forth, discuss, or sometimes fight about the design and execution?
-> EI: No. Our design team and MB's craftsmen are both professionals and we compete each other inside, but understand our own boundary. We trust each other and we just waited for the execution of the wonderful MB team.
Q: only 10 for Japan - too few?
MH: This is Japan's opportunity. This is how Japan can spread the craftsmanship of Japan. Our aim is not only selling pens to the world, but also sending message to the world about Japan's beauty. So, it is a good thing to let more people in the rest of the world to know those things, and this is a good opportunity, hopefully for us the first of many.
The pen is limited edition of 55 (of which 10 is allocated to Japan). The price in Japan is JPY3,000,000 (about USD27,000).
Thank you very much, Montblanc Japan, and Chiso.
Special thanks to Ms. Naka and Mr. Hisai of Montblanc Japan.
The rest is my touristic photos
Where we had lunch.....
Mr. Harrar and Mr. Isomoto in front of the Kimono with the same design as the pen.
Surely, the latest watch - Summit - was on Mr. Harrar's wrist!
Kiyomizu-dera temple at night.
Many of you have visited Kyoto, I think, but 1200 years of history is so deep!
Thanks for looking through this long (as usual) report.