Mokume-Gane – Wood Grain Metal

Mokume-Gane

This morning I have been researching the art of Japanese Mokume-Gane, pronounced moe-koo-may gah-nay.  Mokume-Gane literally translates to Wood Eye-Metal.  This represents it’s similarities to wood grain.  While doing research I came across an extensive history of Mokume-Gane by James E. Binnion who has mastered the art in his jewelry pieces.

The Mokume-Gane process was invented by a Denbei Shoami (1651-1728) who was a master smith from Akita prefecture Japan.

mokume-gane-ring
Mokume-Gane Ring by James Binnion Metal Arts

I have been making many Mokume-Gane style Swirl Wowflutes by mixing many different colors of polymer clay such as Sculpey III, Fimo, and Premo brands.  I take four or so different colors of clay and roll them out into “snakes” which I then twist together to form what looks like a giant candycane.  I then divide this cane in half, into fourths, eighths, and sixteenth equal segments.  Each segment is then rolled and twisted into itself until a desired design is achieved.  I then proceed to take each ball and make it into a pinchpot bowl with a bit of extra clay left at the bottom.  Since I have been making these Swirl Wowflutes for almost 10 years, my fingers are accustomed to the required thickness to make the chamber the right size.  The top rim of the mini-bowl is then carefully closed off and is shaped into the mouthpiece.  I then shape this hollow form into the kidney shape the produces the best tone.  At this stage I stamp the flute and tune each one in relation to the inner chamber size.  I almost enjoy making the different colors as much as I do making and tuning the flute.  If the color mixture isn’t right I will smash a perfectly tuned flute.  I am also quite reluctant to smash a nice swirl design even if the sound of the flute isn’t the greatest.

I am really excited to pursue metalwork and I feel this is the direction that Wowflute Designs is headed.  Clay is very versatile, but metal has intrinsic value where clay does not.  I have always been a coin collector and have been interested in the minting process since I was a child.  I still have my original coin collection which includes tons of wheat pennies, and drummer back quarters (bicentennial).  I think this fascination with coins and making something that lasts more than a lifetime is the drive that keeps me pursuing metalwork and combining it with my popular Wowflutes!

Mokume-Gane has so many similarities to my current flutes made out of clay.  I can’t wait to learn more about this Japanese method while creating awesome Relic Wowflutes!

I will keep this blog updated as I delve deeper into the art and science of Metalwork!  Thanks for following.

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