Starry, Starry Night

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Project by madburg posted 06-06-2021 07:06 AM 1173 views 4 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Starry, Starry Night was inspired by contemporary Japanese boxes, and in particular the work Suda Kenji. He has the status of a ‘Living National Treasure’ – Holder of an Important Intangible Cultural Property, Moku-kogei (Fine Woodwork). He is an exceptional ‘Fine Woodworker’ with his own gallery and studio in the small town of Ganura-cho, in the Gunma Prefecture of Japan. I had the privilege of meeting Suda san and visiting his gallery and workshop in May 2019. This box measures 460mm x 150mm x 150mm. It is the second version of this particular style that I have made see Dottie Kogei

It is two small chests of drawers sitting on a separate tray. As is often the case with antique Japanese boxes, Starry, Starry Night is not a symmetrical piece, the two chests being different sizes. The outside of the two chests have book matched burr elm veneers with highlights of rosewood and lace wood. A black banding, horizontal on the small chest, and vertical on the larger chest – so asymmetrical, are sprinkled with gold dust ‘stars’, and larger ‘stars’ formed from shell and opal dots. This ‘stars’ theme goes across all elements of the box.

Once unlocked these two chests can be separated, turned around and placed back on the tray so that the drawers are accessible.

They can also be left off the tray so it can be used separately, or as a place for the contents of drawers.

The tray is made from Jarrah and walnut, and has inlays of lace wood, with more ‘stars’ of shell and opal dots.

Inside the largest drawer are three small boxes. They are also made from lime with gold sprinkled interiors, and a continuation of the burr elm, black band and ‘stars’ theme of the main chests.

In typical Japanese woodworking fashion, Starry Starry Night has no visible joints. A feature of western woodwork, often done to demonstrate our prowess as craftsmen, but generally frowned upon in Japanese woodwork! The drawers and the small internal boxes have mitred corners strengthened with small ‘secret keys’.

Starry, Starry Night is presented in a typical Japanese Tsutsumi, gift wrapped fashion. It is offered in a cedar wooden outer storage box, called a Tomobako. As well as its outer Tamobako, it is also gift wrapped in a traditional Furoshiki fabric square, made by my wife Val Burgoyne, to add more ‘suspense’ and mystery to what lies inside. The Tamobako and Furoshiki are both tied with traditional Japanese Sanada Himo cotton tapes.

So why Starry Starry Night?
The box is decorated with many shell and opal dots which reminds me of stars. But it is the drawer knobs which inspired the name. They are made of blue glass cabochon stud earrings. The ‘picture’ in these cabochons is a miniature of Vincent van Gogh’s famous 1889 painting ‘The Starry Night’.

A book about Van Gogh’s life provided the inspiration for Don McLean’s song ‘Vincent’, released on his 1971 American Pie album. The song is often erroneously titled after its opening refrain, ‘Starry Starry Night’.

In July 2020, Don McLean’s original handwritten lyrics for the sang sold for US$1.5 million. I doubt this box will ever make it to that.

As ever thanks for taking the time to look.

-- Madburg WA

22 comments so far

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1133 posts in 3555 days

#1 posted 06-06-2021 07:45 AM

Hi Martin- your boxes get better and better. There’s a tremendous amount of workmanship on display here. Mere mortals can only be envious. Congratulations on another stunning result.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View Peteybadboy's profile


4009 posts in 3192 days

#2 posted 06-06-2021 10:38 AM

Just incredible!

-- Petey

View EarlS's profile


4754 posts in 3591 days

#3 posted 06-06-2021 10:49 AM


-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8423 posts in 1825 days

#4 posted 06-06-2021 11:45 AM

Martin, your boxes are always a treat to look at! Thanks for posting, and great work, as usual.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View tinnman65's profile


1416 posts in 4657 days

#5 posted 06-06-2021 01:03 PM

Beautiful work! Its always a pleasure to see what your posting.

-- Paul--- Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. — Scott Adams

View 987Ron's profile


2187 posts in 559 days

#6 posted 06-06-2021 01:13 PM

Very very nice work. Great looking and just wonderful craftsmanship.

-- Ron

View leafherder's profile


1986 posts in 3195 days

#7 posted 06-06-2021 01:32 PM

Beautiful box. It may never sell for $1.5 million, but I’m sure it will become a treasured heirloom for some lucky person – hopefully one who appreciates both Van Gogh and Don McLean. You’ve taken the artistic inspiration full circle – Van Gogh was inspired by Japanese art, McLean was inspired by Van Gogh, now you have been inspired by all three. Thanks for sharing.

-- Leafherder

View MrWolfe's profile


1669 posts in 1366 days

#8 posted 06-06-2021 01:52 PM

Simply stunning and masterful work.
Thanks for sharing.

View Calmudgeon's profile


516 posts in 2670 days

#9 posted 06-06-2021 01:58 PM

Those are exquisite. Thanks for sharing.

-- "As are the things we make, so are we ourselves." - Lin Yutang

View WhattheChuck's profile


467 posts in 4803 days

#10 posted 06-06-2021 03:26 PM

Super-cool! Always an inspiration!

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

View moke's profile


2016 posts in 4019 days

#11 posted 06-06-2021 03:29 PM


-- Mike

View Dark_Lightning's profile


4845 posts in 4351 days

#12 posted 06-06-2021 03:31 PM

Wow! That’s so nice, and the cloth cover and outer box just add to it. Well done!

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View James E McIntyre's profile

James E McIntyre

1494 posts in 2535 days

#13 posted 06-06-2021 03:38 PM

The Starry Starry Night is a Great work!

The Burr Elm on the Starry Starry Night box is wonderful.

I like the Starry Starry Night earrings they were a fitting touch.

Is the wrapping a fabric or paper and where did your wife get it for the Starry Starry Night box?

I may have missed it but what type of joinery did you use for the Starry Starry Night box?

-- James E McIntyre

View sras's profile


6346 posts in 4372 days

#14 posted 06-06-2021 03:52 PM

I always look forward to seeing your work. Another stunning piece!!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View therealSteveN's profile


8855 posts in 1817 days

#15 posted 06-06-2021 06:22 PM

As near perfect as Human hands can make, given to us through a very well done story, complete with pics. Top shelf post.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Think safe, be safe

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