Saying Bye to the Bell Shakuhachi

(Entry date Sep. '22)

I mentioned in my newsletter recently that the time's come for me to retire from making the Bell Shakuhachi. I want to express a heartfelt thank you to everyone who reached out to show their support, understanding, and appreciation for my work.

In 2020 I hired an assistant, my partner Elizabeth. She’s an artist in her own right. She did coloring, sanding the line down the back, painting, and lending me a much needed hand. I wouldn't have made it to the end of the huge waiting list without her. Thanks to all of the Bell Shakuhachi sales, we were able to afford our life and stay safe from COVID. With what little money I could save, I spent a good amount of it acquiring bamboo. In late 2019, just before COVID broke out, I was able to afford to go to Japan to harvest bamboo. I've also purchased upwards of 400 pieces of bamboo since then. I’m very glad that I will have the time and energy to craft bamboo shakuhachi again now that I’m done with the Bell Shakuhachi.

Everyone's kind emails over the years really kept spirits up. They vastly outweighed anything negative people had to say about the Bell Shakuhachi. Some individuals actually had wildly harsh things to say about the Bell Shakuhachi. I'm truly glad the end of the Bells will be a relief to those people, though, perhaps they needed to be challenged. With that said, I hardly think we've seen the last of jinashi or jimori shakuhachi copies.

In the end, making the Bell Shakuhachi was always a precarious balance of so many factors. Essentially, making them entailed doing the same tasks, over and over again, like in a factory. This of course proved to be very taxing, both mentally and physically. While I kept it constantly in mind that I was doing a good and useful thing by making the Bell Shakuhachi, producing the same thing over and over again isn't healthy. That's why I think 3D printing will have to fill this role (copying jinashi and jimori is only possible with either silicone molds, as I did, or 3D printing).

With all this said, I'm very happy to be able to get back to teaching shakuhachi. I actually hand delivered a Bell Shakuhachi for the first time to someone who lives in my area. I helped them out with a basic first lesson. I walked away reminded of how much I value the person-to-person connection in this rare art form. I hadn't taught someone in-person for years. Certainly since before COVID. Suffice to say, I'm very glad to be getting back to passing this on to others.

PS Out of the final batch of ten Bell Shakuhachi one went home to a Japanese person in Ibaraki prefecture, just north of Tokyo.