Artists Mix It Up With Small Factory’s Artisans in Tokyo

Old & New video

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Eiko Miki, a metal hammering artist, works in the free studio set up on the second floor of Nishikawa Seiki Seisakusho Co. in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, on April 9.

Tucked away in a residential area of the old part of Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward sits a small metalworking factory. Nishikawa Seiki Seisakusho Co., founded in 1960, consists of four executives and eight employees, and carries out the entire process of designing, cutting, welding, sheet-metal processing and assembly of metallic products. The company has also made a name for itself in the past five years or so for developing original archery bows in Japan.

But Nishikawa Seiki stands out in another way as well. The company has set up a free studio in which up-and-coming artists can hone their skills.

Eiko Miki, 37, a metal hammering artist living in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, is one of the artists making use of the studio. Miki gains inspiration during her travels, mainly in Latin America, and turns them into works of art for display. Upon completing a graduate program at the Tokyo University of the Arts, she also created large pieces at the studio for a personal exhibition.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Beneath the studio on the first floor, the staff goes about its everyday business of metal-processing work.

“Since this is a factory, noise is not a problem, and it has special machines for bending and cutting metal,” Miki said. “On top of that, the life of an artist is quite solitary — I am no exception — but here, I can learn directly from experienced employees about metals and gain a connection to society.

“Without gaining the experience at this studio that isn’t taught at the university, I would not be the artist that I am today.”

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
The Nishikawa Seiki building, with its studio for artists on the second floor

An exhibition of works she created in the studio and other places is planned for the Den Gallery in Tokyo’s Higashi Nakano district from April 28 to June 2.

In 2016, Nishikawa Seiki launched its “Koba Project” for young artists and students at Tokyo University of the Arts and other universities, providing everything from studio space to technical advice for free.

Courtesy of Eiko Miki
Eiko Miki is seen with her work created at the Nishikawa Seiki studio during an exhibition titled “Patch of Sky, Grain of Earth” in Tokyo in 2022.

“Artists and small factories are very similar in that they both create things, but the sensibilities differ” said Nishikawa Seiki President Yoshihisa Nishikawa, 58. “Just coming into contact with the thinking of young people stimulates us. I have learned that things that fascinate people have some sort of implicit meaning, which you can’t get from words or numbers.”

The company is still accepting new artists. Inspiration gained through this project is said to be reflected in the design of the archery equipment developed by the company.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Nishikawa Seiki President Yoshihisa Nishikawa speaks about the development of the company’s original archery bows and arrows.