Amita Co. artists: Minai, Torahiko Kanamori, Takeshi

Kumeno, Teitaro (Shimetaro) [粂野締太郎] (1865 ~ 1939)

Teitaro Kumeno was born in 1865 and was one of the shippō (cloissone enamel) ware craftsmen from Nagoya, Aichi prefecture.
Professor Jiro Harada, member of the Society for International Cultural Relations and author of numerous books on Japanese culture (Lesson Of Japanese Architecture, The Gardens Of Japan, Lectures on Japanese Art and Culture, etc.) wrote a great article for the The International Studio Magazine (1911), which describes the Kumeno's work and his input into the cloisonne enamel technique. Prof. Harada had luck to see in person a cigarette box made by Kumeno Teitaro. An excerpt from this article is provided below.
Cloisonne enamels are known amongst the Japanese by the name of shippō, a contraction of two words: shichi, denoting seven, and , meaning treasures. [...]
Here a few words about the technique of enamel decoration may prove of interest. Let us take an ordinary example of yūsen-do-jippō, a copper cloisonne enamel. To prepare the base a piece of copper is hammered out into the desired shape and form, the surface being made smooth. Upon this copper base is traced with a brush in indian ink the design to be executed, which has been originally painted by an artist on paper or silk. Then thin wires or ribbons of gold, silver, or copper are placed edgeways upon the lines of the drawing with great accuracy in order to make the cloisons. The narrow metallic ribbon is cut into sections of various lengths and curved into the forms required, exactly fitting the lines of the drawing. In the more carefully made pieces the ribbons are not only bent but beaten with a hammer so as to obtain varying thicknesses of lines, and the ends of the wires filed so as to ensure that they meet perfectly.

A cloisonne box decorated with butterflies, described by Prof. Harada.

The endless patience required, and the great difficulty involved in this preliminary part of the enameller's art, can be imagined when we learn that it is not unusual to find more than one hundred pieces of ribbon set in intricate designs in a space of one square inch. The writer has now before him a cigarette-box, made by Kumeno Teitaro of Nagoya, about three and a half inches long and a little less wide, literally covered with tiny butterflies, most delicate wire being used to give form to two sets of wings and a pair of antennae for each butterfly. At an arm's length the box appears to be covered simply with shapeless dots, and it is only by a closer examination that thousands of butterflies of perfect shapes and beautiful colours can be appreciated. How the minute work has been done is still a mystery to many of his friends.
[...] Mention should also be made of Kumeno Teitaro (or Shimetaro) of the same city (Nagoya). While the honour of being the inventor of gin-jippō (silver cloisonne) is claimed by many, the success of gin-jippō is no doubt due to Kumeno's discovery of a method that prevented the enamels covering the silver foundation from getting cracked in the course of a year or so, as was formerly the case. According to Kumeno's own story related to the writer, he happened to notice, while waiting for a train at the station one day, that a considerable space was allowed where the rails were joined. When it was explained to him that the space was necessary for the expansion of the steel in heat, an idea flashed through his mind that the difficulty with gin-jippō might lie in the fact that the silver base was too thick to allow of a uniform contraction and expansion of the metal with the enamel covering it. He began hammering the silver base very thin, and the result proved satisfactory.

Kumeno Teitaro advertised himself as the inventor of silver cloisonne, which was claimed by many, but it is Kumeno who solved the problem of cloisonne cracking under varying weather conditions, which was a major problem at the time for foreigners buying artworks in Japan and returning to their home countries.

A cloisonne vase by Kumeno Teitaro. Notice the similarity of the design on this vase and cigarette case #1 in the examples section below.

Unfortunately, small art objects, like cigarette cases, made by T. Kumeno are rarely marked. However, usually they are easily attributed to Kumeno thanks to the distinguishable design and workmanship with which these artworks were made. For example, the vase above, stamped with the Kumeno's trade mark, is very similar in design to the cigarette case #1 in the Examples section below. Cigarette case #2 could make a pair with this vase.
It follows from the exhibition records that in 1894 Kumeno changed the English pronunciation of his name (締太郎) from Shimetaro to Teitaro. The 締 kanji can be read both as Shime or Tei. From 1893 to 1907 Kumeno constantly submitted his works to national and foreign exhibitions, winning various prizes. In 1893 his work was awarded a Bronze Medal at The World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A year later, he was awarded another Bronze Medal, at the national Spring Exhibition of the Japan Art Association. Six years later, in 1900, he received the Gold Medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris. Three years later he was awarded the First Prize at the Fifth National Industrial Exhibition in Osaka. In 1926 Kumeno was awarded the Grand Prize at the Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia.
Kumeno Teitaro passed away in 1939. The traces of his workshop afterwards are lost. Presumably, it didn't recover from the consequences of WWII and was closed forever.

Addresses and locations
Examples (from the web)