Inspired by Inrō

An inro collection from British Museum
I enjoy contemplating the beauty of inrō (Japanese:印籠) for their high art and immense craftsmanship. I love the feel, the smoothness, the detailed incisions that give them life and expression. Made of a variety of materials, including wood, ivory, bone, and lacquer, they provide me invaluable inspiration while designing a fine object, especially a perfume bottle.

An inrō is a traditional Japanese case for holding small objects, such as medicines, identity seals, tobacco and pipes. The stack of boxes is held together by a cord that runs through cord runners down one side, under the bottom, and up the opposite side. The ends of the cord are secured to a netsuke (Japanese: 根付), a toggle that is passed between the sash and pants and then hooked over the top of the sash to suspend the inrō. The making of an inro is a highly-skilled process, as each compartment has to fit smoothly into the next. They figured importantly as signs of status in the upper-class male wardrobe in Edo Period.

As an advocate of high-art aesthetics, I was pleased to see some marvelous inro at “A Sensibility to the Seasons: Summer and Autumn in Japanese Art “, an exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exquisite and elegant, they were filled with pools of light shining through inviting you to appreciate–––the artistry within Edo society of the time.

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