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Traditional Paint Maker in Kyoto

Photographer: Everett Kennedy Brown


When fifth generation paint shop owner Norihiro Ishida talks about his work, he speaks of 'maintaining a 40,000 year old tradition in the arts.'


'Since the first known cave paintings in southern France, mankind has been making colorful pigments from natural mineral sources,' says Ishida. 'While synthetic paints have become popular since the 19th century, our shop holds to the tradition of making paints exclusively from natural mineral and organic sources.'


Ishida's paint shop, named Hokodo, is the oldest in Japan, started in the mid-1800s, and is patronized by the country's top painters who spend upwards of tens of thousands of dollars for hand crafted mineral pigments his shop specializes in. Ishida himself has earned a reputation for recreating natural pigments that were used in pre-modern times and whose recipes have been lost.


The shop handles over 1,000 colors and is renowned for the ability to create almost any color from natural materials in a time consuming process of slowly grinding down minerals to fine powders, which are then heated and mixed with other minerals to create any color under the rainbow. Ishida and his shop is an example of one of the many small shops in Japan's former capital of Kyoto that quietly maintains very old traditions of craftsmanship.