The technique of superior craftsman can’t be handed down by word of mouth
Yoshinori Tanaka is a quiet artisan aged seventy-five years old. He hardly speaks out when he performs squeegeeing, though, he is having a sore throat now. I asked his co-workers why he is so special and respectable figure even among the experts in the factory.
“He never be in charge of the first printing when we conduct multi-colored printing, instead some young worker usually takes the part.” Mr. Tanaka will look after from the second process onwards. “For instance, when he is on the second process in line, he immediately judges how well or badly the first work has done.” Metal fittings are equipped at the bottom of the dyeing plates, in which he inserts the mating fittings of the screen printed. If it’s successful, the second screen print will overlaps that of the first screen without any misalignment made in between.
His colleague continues, “Metal fittings or dye plate could expand or shrink depending on the room temperature. Even though the second screen is prepared to mount exactly on the first screen, it could still cause the gap at the level of a tenth of one millimeter.” Mr. Tanaka is able to detect such misalignment potentially caused therefore he loops a cloth around fittings in a very quick way to modify a gap in a tenth of one millimeter. And then he places the second screen to be printed.
I was actually watching how he moved. Tanaka was printing colors on the fabric using squeegeeing, and then he lifted up the squeegee at 120 degree when finishing up. He took a half to whole step back. Nothing was wasted in his movement as a skilled worker but more of being graceful.
“Mr. Tanaka checks the screen even at the time when he moves the finished screen to the next fabric. This is because just a little dust remained in the back side of the screen may result in blocking inks. White dots, which are too small to be seen with naked-eyes, will appear on the dyed textile. Mr. Tanaka doesn’t overlook them, so he carefully handles the silk screen avoiding dust covering.” The young artisan said that unless he can detect the blocked ink or the misalignment between screens, he wouldn’t be able to declare himself as the expert.
The hardness of ink that is mixed with starch varies according to temperature or humidity in a day. “Mr. Tanaka stirs ink in a bucket a couple of times during the work. I believe that he must be adjusting the hardness of the ink to be adhered to a cloth, so that the inks can be evenly spread over a fabric.”
Also here is a case that happens to them often. “We are sometimes in trouble with printing. No matter how we attempt it, the work doesn’t show good results. Gathering our head together, a couple of us are talking about a solution. Then Mr. Tanaka will leave the site with the squeegee in his hand; He comes back to us after a few minutes, passing the squeegee to a younger worker without saying a word. The squeegee will show us a miracle by which printing becomes much easier and dyeing is smoothly done!”
Of course we all wanted to know the secret, so one of us once followed Mr. Tanaka who was leaving the room with the squeegee in his hand. What he witnessed was that Yoshinori Tanaka was applying the work on the edge of the squeegee with a grinder, such as sharpening or rounding.
A craftsmanship can’t be handed down by word of mouth, though, it could be filed as knowledge, their unique technique, skill, or craftsmanship can’t be passed to the next generations of their disciples without experience. The young worker mustn’t ask “how would you do it?” Because there is no answer in words but in the movements of senior workers’ hands, body, breathing, and attention paid to the work. The answers can only be connected to those operations that are difficult to describe in words. A salary is not only the compensation of the work for craftsmen, who will never be happy if they don’t recognize their own growth along with a pleasure and richness in their life.
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