Lexus has released the third in its short film series celebrating craftsmanship, In Search of Takumi – Metal, following expert blacksmith Will Barker as he creates a steel sculpture inspired by metal design elements in the ES saloon.
Each film in the series draws parallels between the fine takumi craftsmanship featured in Lexus cars and the detailed work of a highly skilled UK artisan as they create a piece of artwork inspired by a different Lexus model and material. The first two features illustrated the work of leather worker Otis Ingram and expert glassmaker Peter Layton, influenced respectively by the flagship Lexus LC coupe and LS saloon models.
Barker drew on the ES’s Hadori door trim and signature spindle grille in designing his one-off steel sculpture. The piece was made using a process called Damascus steel which is also used in traditional Japanese katana sword-making. It involves forging two types of steel together to create an exceptionally strong alloy.
“I really thrived on j seeing just how far I could push this”, said Barker. “By continuously folding, I was able to fit 162 layers of steel into a small space. It’s probably the most difficult technique I could have used. While steel is a very forgiving material to work with, it still requires a lot of brute strength. You need to heat it up to 1,750 degrees Celsius to get it to a malleable stage and you have to create a huge amount of force to bend it and twist it to the shape you want.”
At 32, Barker may be slightly too young to be considered a takumi master craftsman, but he has been a blacksmith since he was just 17. It took a long time for him to break into the profession and having honed his skills over the years, he now has his own forge in Colchester.
Barker’s steel sculpture captures the progress craftspeople make over years of dedication to their work. From the bottom, it features oxyacetylene scars, sledgehammer dents and hand tool markings on the steel – imperfections created by someone beginning to learn their craft. As you move up the sculpture the marks fade and become smoother, showing how skills improve with time and experience. At the top there is an intricate spindle, representing the culmination of the journey to becoming a takumi.
Like the Japanese craftspeople working at the heart of Lexus, Barker believes in the importance of craftsmanship in a world of mass-production: “I think we sometimes forget that working with our hands takes time and coming up with original ideas takes time. I think it’s so important to continue to use the techniques and methods from the past to produce new and innovative ideas. I think Lexus has really accomplished this with the ES.”
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