Shoji and Kumiko Patterns

Kumiko are the small, thin pieces of wood that are joined together to form the lattices in shoji etc. For fine work, they can range in width from less than 1 mm to roughly 7 or 8 mm, and in thickness from roughly 12-16 mm or so. This will, of course, depend on the overall size and design of the shoji. They are joined at different angles to form a vast array of patterns. Individually, the kumiko pieces can be quite delicate and easily broken, but once joined, they become surprisingly strong and sturdy.

The following are the main classifications of the kumiko arrangements in shoji, and the different shoji structures. These are detailed in
Shoji and Kumiko Design Book 1, and The Complete Guide to Shoji and Kumiko Patterns Volume 1.

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Kumiko arrangement Kumiko arrangement Kumiko arrangement

These kumiko arrangements generally form the basis of the various kumiko patterns.

The art of making these intricate patterns with kumiko is called
kumiko-zaiku (組子細工; zaiku means detailed or fine work). Somewhere around three hundred or so different patterns have been developed in the several hundred years since this typically Japanese craft form was started.

In this part of my website, I'll list the various kumiko patterns that I have made. As I make new patterns for my books, I will add them to the relevant sections.

I'll try to group the patterns into some form of family or design grouping, but this may change over time. At this stage, I've broadly classified the patterns into:

Square patterns — The base kumiko (jigumi) run horizontal and vertical to form squares, and the kumiko patterns fit within these squares.
Diamond patterns — The kumiko intersect at set angles to form diamonds, and the patterns either fit within these diamonds, or more often, the angled kumiko are arranged themselves to form the patterns.
Hexagonal patterns — The jigumi is formed by a series of three-way joints (mitsu-kude) to form hexagonal shapes of six equilateral triangles.

Some recurring prefixes in these patterns are
hitoe, futae, mie, and yae. Here, hitoe (一重) means single, futae (二重) means double, mie (三重) means triple, and yae (八重) means multiple. How these correspond to the pattern make-up will become clearer as you compare the different patterns.

Click on the links below to see just a small portion of what is possible with small pieces of wood, and a tremendous amount of patience. I hope you find these patterns interesting, and that they will encourage you to try your hand at this wonderful craft form.

Instructions on how to make all of the patterns shown in the links below are in
Book 1 – The Basics or Book 2 – Beyond the Basics.

There are also numerous images of kumiko patterns and brief explanations on how they are made on my Instagram website.