What glasses are the trendiest now? Many spectacles collectors of today go after handmade celluloid eyeglasses frames made by Japanese craftsmen. From Johnny Depp to Takuya Kimura, frames made by Taihachiro Yamamoto are their top choices.
Celluloid was a synthetic plastic invented in the 19th century. Its use was largely replaced by modern plastic in the 1960s except in the most expensive fountain pens and handmade frames. Taihachiro keeps a large amount of celluloid at the front yard of his workshop. It takes more than five years to become solid and to bear the abundant layers of colours like tortoise shell.
Taihachiro’s legendary career started when he asked an optical shop to fit a pair of lenses into his eyeglasses frame. The shopkeeper was very impressed by the quality and asked if he had made it. Two days later,Taihachiro received a call from the owner of Kaneko Optical, who invited him to produce a line of frames for them.
His workshop in Sabae, Fukui Prefecture, was rustic with only the simplest tools. There were over 80 workshops in the past but now only a couple are left. Not many young people want to enter the industry where persistence is key, and the century-old tradition of handcrafting eyeglasses frames in Japan is fading. Taihachiro’s frames are free from elaborate decoration but full of soul. He cuts into the celluloid bit by bit and moulds the frame. This sounds simple but it actually requires a great deal of attention.
Great importance is attached to perfection, colour and details in handmade frames. Taihachiro’s are simplistic with a hint of orientalism. Japanese characters of “handmade by Taihachiro” are crafted on the inside of one of the temples and then covered in gold sheets. A decoration piece of 925 silver is attached to the front of the frame, showcasing the oriental beauty. A pair of glasses takes 13 complicated processes to make. The tradition no longer exists in Europe. Even in Japan, only the best craftsmen know the craft. Every pair of glasses made by Taihachiro is a piece of art.
The time of delivery ranges from weeks to months. Only up to 300 pairs are made in a year. Therefore, orders are taken three months in advance. “I hope every pair of celluloid frame that I make is perfect. I will feel very sorry if a customer bought my eyeglasses frame that isn’t up to standard.”
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