This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
(Continued from page 252.)
WE give a few more examples of sword-guards, including an interesting old example in iron, worked "a jour," after the manner already described. After sword-guards, it is natural to speak of knife-handles and sword-pins (or, as they are called in Japan, Kodsuka and Kogui) as they are commonly found attached to the short swords, and, it may be remarked, sometimes also to long swords. Though less important than the guards, they, too, are interesting to the metal worker, as well as to the connoisseur. But, being made usually of soft metal, the same kind of skill was not required as in sword-guard making. Not being intended to ward off a blow, there was no reason to use tough and hard metal. Occasionally, though, one finds some of them of iron; but, usually in that case, the back is of shakudo, or silver, or other soft metal.
As sword-pins have been mentioned, a few words may be said about them. They are what some collectors call bodkins, and others say were used as chop-sticks. Those that are all in one piece, usually the oldest, were really so used to pin the court cap to the hair, as our ladies use the hat-pin. They were also used for scratching the head. Later, some time in the eighteenth century, that custom died out, or nearly, and then the sword-pins were divided to make chop-sticks for use in camp or at a picnic. Probably, though, none of the old bodkins were made over for this purpose, but chop-sticks were probably made in the same shape, only divided. The ornament on the sword-pin is confined to the broad upper part. It consists often of a bird or spray of flowers thrown on without an enclosing line. The ornament of both knife-handles and sword-pins most met with is oblong or upright. Figures and horses seem to be most commonly used in the former case; landscapes in the latter, but in a large collection one will find many examples to the contrary. It is wonderful with what ingenuity the artist arranged his composition to suit it to the narrow limits of the object to be decorated. What, for instance, could be more delightful than the poet, seen in one of our illustrations, carving his verses on the bark of a cherry tree ? This knife-handle is in several different kinds of metal. The one showing an old man sweeping the fallen maple leaves off a garden path is of copper. Another, with a design of a saint craning his neck to look at a descending stork, is of gold.
There are probably few readers of Arts & Crafts who have not seen some examples of Japanese knife-handles; but for the information of anyone who may be unfamiliar with these often exquisite miniatures, we may say that the size seems to be always the same - no more nor less than as represented in our illustrations. Many of them are signed by artists famous in this specialty. Fine knife-handles were not made by celebrated sword-guard makers, as might be supposed, although some noted knife-handle makers did sometimes make sword-guards.
Japanese Art Metal-Work The Tsuba
Sword-Guard In Solid Silver • By Takeshika (A.D. 1800) • The Eyes Of The Horses Are Of Gold And The Spots On The Bodies Are Of Shakudo
Iron Sword-Guard • Worked "A Jour"
Sword-Guard In Shibuichi (Dragons) • By Seidzoni
Repeat Design. Adapted From The Border Of An Old Persian Rug.
TO the ornamental designer, sketches of detail, and especially of leaves, flowers, and fruit, are always useful; but it must not be supposed from this that they can always be used directly as motives for decoration, not even if put through the process called "conventionalisation," which is very like turning out ornament by machinery. You take any plant whatever, reduce it to something like a botanical diagram, repeat the diagram, and you have ornament of a kind, but seldom, indeed, and then only by chance, of a good kind. The real designer seldom goes through any such routine. He has the necessary elements of his design well in mind, owing to his previous practice. In any particular branch of design these are few. In wall-paper, for instance, they may almost be reduced to the running scroll and the diaper. Well, on his sketching trip he sees scrolls and diapers, or forms that can be reduced to these everywhere. He does not make a design out of a bunch of leaves any more than an architect would build a house around a keyhole. So, in looking over his sketches, he finds some peculiarity of a natural vine which will enable him to give a new character of curve to his scroll-work, or some leaf indented in a fashion that he thinks will prove novel and effective in his design, or some arrangement of leaves and flowers that will fill agreeably the interstices of a pattern laid out on geometrical lines.
The use of book-binders' tools need by no means be restricted to the covers of books nor to the materials generally employed in binding books. They may, for example, be used on plush with splendid effect. For this purpose the first step is to prepare some wax medium by dissolving wax in spirits of turpentine to which a small quantity of spike oil may be added. The solution should be rather thicker than megilp, and may be retained of that consistency by mixing with more turpentine as it grows harder. If the colour of the plush suits, it is simply to be saturated with this solution, which is allowed to dry between the threads of the pile and so combine them into a mass. But any paint in powder, or gold or silver bronze, can be added to the medium. After the plush is dry, the design can be traced on it by pouncing - that is, rubbing powdered chalk or charcoal through pin-holes made along the lines. The stamping is done just as for stamped leather, but less pressure is needed as the warm tools melt the wax and bear down the fibres easily. The wax, cooling again, prevents their rising once more to their old position. The effect is of a lustrous depressed ornamentation in a dull ground of the same colour. Stencils can be used in order to save portions of the stuff of its original colour and quality, and one of the most beautiful effects obtainable is got by stencilling white or pale-coloured silk plush with wax medium mixed with silver bronze and then stamping the waxed portion only. The wax preserves the bronze from change and also keeps it from getting into the atmosphere of the room.