Kumiko 組子 is a characteristic ornamentation technique in traditional Japanese architecture used in the design of a Shoji Screen 障子 (paper sliding door) and a Ranma 欄間 (an openwork screen installed above the sliding partitions between two rooms).
The Kumiko technique involves a highly skilled and trained craftsman putting together small and very precisely cut pieces of wood to create ornate patterns. The delicate pieces have less than 0.1mm of tolerance with a ditch, extrusion and hole prepared with a saw, a carpenter's plane and a chisel and then assembled by hand using a hammer.
You would need about 10 year’s training from a Kumiko master to become a Kumiko craftsman. Indeed, in Japan today there exist only about 100 Kumiko experts.
For example, the Kumiko screen in the original Hotel Okura’s signature lounge had a hemp leaf pattern, Asanoha-mon 麻の葉紋, which is one of the most popular Japanese motifs. It was commonly used in the design of kimonos and children’s clothes, as it symbolised a wish for children to grow strong like a hemp plant. The triangle shape also acts as a charm against evil spirits, so the Asanoha-mon was used to protect the house as well.
Japanese houses have become westernised over the years, and Kumiko screens are rarely used in modern interiors. I feel that I have a duty to bring the Kumiko screen and the Tokonoma space back into Japanese residential projects in a contemporary way whenever I have the opportunity.