In Boxes – An Exhibition of Japanese Craft Boxes
Boxes… they come in various shapes, textures, colors and materials. We use boxes in large and small scales on a daily basis – to transport our lunches, to offer gifts, and to organize all sorts of items from stationary to reading glasses. There is a fascinating quality to boxes because of the mystery of what they contain or the potential of what they can hold. The thrill of discovering the purpose of a box or what is inside of it is what interests us the most!
In preparation for NYCxDESIGN week, we’ve been busy bringing together a selection of finely crafted containers from Japan for our upcoming exhibition entitled, In Boxes. Amongst some of the objects on display will be glass display cases, ceramic jewelry boxes, and a collection of bento boxes. We are also delighted to announce the inclusion of a rare collection of wood business card holders by the renowned Hokkaido craftsman, Norio Masakage. These pieces are amongst some of his last works before he recently retired and passed down his skills to his son Tanno Masakage.
Every object featured in the exhibition will have a very specific usage but are all connected by the fact that they are in essence used as a container. However, it is our hopes that viewers will quickly realize that they are not just a box!
Note: All items on display at the exhibition can be purchased. Pick-up dates of items sold will be organized at checkout and begin following the final exhibition day.
Poster designed by Megan Hall of Basislager Atelier.
As promised, here is a recap of my visit to the Jicon showroom and studio – one of the highlights of my latest trip to Japan!
Jicon was created as an off shoot brand of the ‘house of Imamura’ – a family run porcelain company that derived from the renown Touetsugama kiln founded 350 years ago. Today, Hajime Imamura runs Jicon (designed with Oji Masanori) while his brother succeeded the Touetsugama kiln. The Imamura family and their craft are clearly full of history! Here, with the help of Hajime Imamura and his other half, Maki Imamura, I was just able to scratch the surface but we’re looking forward to learning more about this fascinating story during the upcoming years.
Based in Arita, a city that is rich in porcelain stone and rooted in it’s ceramic crafts, Hajime and Maki have been running Jicon. It is there that the husband and wife team make each porcelain piece by hand in their studio that runs adjacent to a beautiful showroom.
When Taku and I first arrived, we were served coffee and sweets all on Jicon wares on top of a Takahashi Kougei tray, also designed by Oji Masanori! Everything seemed to connect at this moment and I felt like Hajime and Maki’s children got it right with an illustration of their parents’ company relationships – A clever diagram of the parents on top, the designer (Oji Masanori) and the brand representative amongst a sea of Jicon product!
After a tour of the showroom, Maki and Hajime brought me to the studio and on the way we passed their lawn of ceramic shards that they’ve been collecting with their children over the years. With such a long line of porcelain kilns in the city, the streets of Arita are like a living history book where old pieces of porcelain that have been discarded can be found scattered everywhere.
Made with “Amakusa Touseki” (porcelain stone) found in the Arita environs, Jicon is distinct with its durability and satin glaze finish that was specially developed with Oji Masanori. Hajime is pictured above showing me a bucket that indicates “Oji Masanori’s Special Glaze”!
Special techniques are also used in the making of each piece and the couple was kind enough to give a demonstration of the various steps. Hajime prepared the pieces for firing in the kiln; sometimes painting a special iron based rim called “Fuchi Sabi” while Maki carefully polished and finished the pieces.
We’ve always loved the Jicon logo so it was great to hear the story behind how it was derived through the transformation of the Imamura family symbol. We later learned that Oji Masanori had also designed the Jicon logo.
Afterwards we left the studio to walk the streets that were embedded with bits of porcelain. Hajime also wanted to take me to the mountaintop to show me the source of Arita’s rich stone and to the Touzan Jinja – The Porcelain Shrine that had a beautiful porcelain torii gate. This is where many people go to pray for good fortune for their kiln.
We also got a chance to fit in a trip to the Kyushu Ceramic Museum, the entrance of which was not surprisingly covered in ceramic tiles of all sizes.
While there, we saw an extensive amount of pottery works, some dating back to the 1600′s. I could see how these traditional Japanese shapes inspired Oji Masanori for Jicon designs like the chrysanthemum and diamond shaped plates.
On the way out, Hajime shows me a stunning vessel and casually mentioned it was a work by his Father… Incredible to see it as a museum piece!
As our visit drew to a close, we walked to the train along the riverbed and got a chance to pick a few pottery shards of our own as souvenirs.
I owe a huge thank you to Hajime and Maki Imamura for inviting me to their workspace and home for this incredible tour. Thank you also to Takuya Matsuo for guiding the visit!
I had such a wonderful time visiting the Kenroku-en Garden in Kanazawa and came home with so many photos that I thought the outing deserved a post on its own. I didn’t actually plan on visiting the garden in the middle of winter, but found myself with some free time between meetings and thought it would be a good idea to see it in an off-season. The normally crowded garden was empty of tourists, allowing me an introspective moment. The one ultimate truth that became clear, this garden looks gorgeous in any season.
Kenroku-en was erected by the Maeda clan in the 1600s and used as a private garden till it was open to the public in 1874. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful feudal lord gardens in Japan and gets its namesake from the “six attributes” that contribute to the perfect garden landscape – spaciousness, tranquility, artifice, antiquity, water-courses and panoramas. For visitors brave enough to visit during the harsh winter months, you are treated to “yukitsuri”, which literally translates to “snow hangings” in English. This is a method to protect the branches of the ancient trees from breaking from the weight of snowfalls with ropes attached in a conical array. Definitely an interesting view from all angles!
I recently made a trip to Japan to visit a few craftsmen and catch up on a couple projects we have in the works for Nalata Nalata.
When I landed in Tokyo, I headed straight for the Te Te Te exhibition. The show was held at the Tolot Shinonome building, home to a contemporary art gallery and the perfect setting to showcase a variety of contempoary homeware brands.
At the show I ran into Taku and Oji Masanori who we had just hosted in NYC a couple weeks prior for the KUMU exhibition. I also got to see our friends at 10¹² Terra who had their new Showcase Long collection on display and also saw Yamazaki Yoshiki of RetRe, who was showing his new line of metal dinnerware products called Onami – Both collections which we currently have in-store.
The entire Daiyo candle collection was displayed and I met several makers that we’re big fans of, including Katsuhisa and Mizuho Hira, the husband and wife team behind Studio Prepa. We can’t wait to bring their new glass teapots to the shop!
After the show, Taku offered to take me to a Nabe hot pot style dinner. All the familiar faces came along including Mr. Futagami, Daisuke Tsumanuma, Naoto Yoshida, Oji Masanori, Hajime Imamura and Yoshiki Yamazaki. I’ve been keen to try a traditional one in Japan and was lucky enough to try it in the Ryogoku district of Tokyo, also known as the Sumo Wrestling district, where the best hearty Nabe style cooking is found.
The meal lived up to the expectation and I’m now an even bigger fan of this kind of cooking and already have a few recipes Angy and I will be experimenting with using our clay donabes.
The next day I had a quick lunch with Arthur and Shane over at HAVEN who happened to be in Japan on a buying trip. Arthur travels to Tokyo frequently and knows the city like the back of his hand so when he said he frequents a place called Tonkatsu Maisen that has the best panko crusted pork cutlets… I had to try it! It was amazing and I highly recommend it if you’re ever in the Aoyoma neighborhood.
Afterwards, I hopped on the next train to Kyoto.
It was great catching up with Michael, Koichiro and Nanako from Takaokaya.
They were gracious enough to come in on the weekend for our meeting, which felt like a super special private tour of their quiet, and still factory on a Saturday morning.
On our last trip to Japan, we began brainstorming ideas for our handmade Denim Ojami collection and have since launched the exclusive cushions on our website and in-store. We can’t wait to share the next project we have in the works with the Takaokaya team!
I had some free time in Kyoto, which gave me the opportunity to check out the Kennin-ji garden.
The temple is striking with raked sand, beautiful interiors and precise bonsai integration.
Afterwards I headed over to one of my favorite spots in Kyoto, Gallery Yamahon, where I discovered beautiful works by ceramic artist, Masaomi Yasunaga.
The raw edges and naturally distorted shapes of the ceramic pieces were really beautiful to see in person.
I also had time to visit a couple new spots. Kitone is a store and gallery in a small house with a cozy café in the back. It’s packed with a mix of craft and vintage goods, fabrics and food items.
On the outskirts of Kyoto is the Bolts Hardware store owned by Masaya Asahi. Well worth the hike if you’re in the market for hardware and useful everyday tools.
Efish is an oldie but a goodie… A nice café to checkout that overlooks the Kyoto river. It also has a small but well curated selection of products. It’s one of our go-to spots for a coffee before jumpstarting the day.
The last day in Kyoto I paid a visit to Shinichi Takeuchi at Jusan-Ya where he showed me the company’s extraordinary comb making process. Each tooth is carved by hand!! I’m in awe every time I visit and see their collection of boxwood combs.
That evening, Michael brought me to an amazing covert yakitori restaurant. It’s so secret that I don’t even know the name (although that’s the façade pictured above).
Over beers we had a ton of dishes including toriwasa (raw chicken!) and namatamago (raw egg yolk in it’s membrane). Sorry to send anyone reading this on a wild goose chase but this place is unlike any yakitori restaurant I’ve tried and is definitely worth hunting down! Maybe Michael can give you this ultra classified information!! He’s also a great source for the Kyoto food scene in general. Check out his blog Kyoto Foodie.
New day new city. On my way to Kanazawa I had a harsh reality check that I was headed to the cold north as the train ripped through a whiteout skyline.
I welcomed in the colder climate as it let me explore the country in another light. Kenroku-en garden was an example as most people visit when the flowers are in full bloom but winter was nice in another way. I found it fascinating and will be posting more photos in a separate Journal entry but wanted to share a couple images in the meantime. I loved how the trees were held up with bamboo posts and ropes to support the branches from snowfalls, something that seemed unique to this garden.
I took in the beauty, made a snowman and snowlady of Angy and I, and headed to the museum.
Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, the same architects who designed the New Museum in NYC around the corner from our shop, designed the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa. It has a circular glass façade so you’re always looking outside as you walk through the museum.
There was also a Turrell piece called Blue Planet Sky.
I was primarily interested in the museum architecture. In general, the space was beautifully designed and had unique spaces for lounging and study. I especially liked the low pile carpets with white furniture.
I also made a pit stop to the Nagamachi District of Kanazawa, known as the samurai district. The earthen walls are patched up with straw in the winter months to protect the homes where the samurai and their families would formerly reside.
Amidst the winding alleys is the Noruma Samurai House, the restored residence of a high-ranking samurai family.
The house seamlessly combines inside and outside elements by incorporating sliding door panels, natural stone floors, a garden with ancient trees and a stream. The idea of being able to walk through the house while looking outside at the beautiful scenery was inspiring.
The following day I met with Noriyasu and our friends at Gloini, a great shop for antiques and home furnishings…
Between meetings I dropped by a lifestyle store called Factory Zoomer, on the bank of Kanazawa River. Run by a husband and wife duo, it’s in a small and charming building divided into a shop at the front and living quarters for the couple. It offers a wonderful selection of glassworks, and custom ceramic pieces.
From Kanazawa, I made a long trek South to Arita to visit the Jicon kiln. This was a much-anticipated visit as I was able to see firsthand the process behind some of our favorite tableware pieces. Meeting Hajime Imamura (above) and his wife Maki Imamura was such an honour and a highlight of the trip! We’ll be sharing another post soon where we delve a little deeper into Jicon’s history and their process. Stay tuned!
To read more about some of our previous trips to Japan…
This past weekend we held a three-day exhibition entitled Kumu at Nalata Nalata. Oji Masanori and Daisuke Tsumanuma and Kenichi Yamada of 10¹² Terra flew in from Japan for the international debut of their new works at our store. It was an honour to have them in town for a week and we had a blast giving them a tour of New York as they have so graciously done for us during our visits to Japan.
We held the opening reception for the event on Friday and thus the exhibition set-up commenced the day before. Here are some photos of the products post set-up the morning of the opening along with some photos of the shop as guests began to arrive near the evening and into the night!
Although Oji Masanori and his friends, Taku and Noriko (owner and curator of the soon to open Kumu in Tokyo) were incredibly jet-lagged, they fought through it like champs to greet guests and introduce the new Jicon vessels and diamond sake decanter designed by Oji himself.
Attendees even had a chance to test the Jicon vessels for themselves as Natalie, Sujin and Aimee served sake throughout the night with the diamond shaped decanters. The three different stemmed vessels provide a unique sake experience as the shape can influence its perception, aroma and taste. Sakaya in East Village provided the premium sake served and each bottle matched a different region of Japan where the products showcased were manufactured. The crowd favourite was the lucid blue Taisetsu Junmai Ginjo from Hokkaido.
Kenichi and Daisuke (pictured above) had a stunning display of 10¹² Terra showcase boxes, terrariums and vases. Their latest series, the “Showcase Long” was unveiled for the first time with an incredibly positive response! The concept of this series aligns closely with their other works that highlight the evolution of plant life. The idea is to first place a single fresh flower stem on a pin that protrudes from the oak base, and then flip it upside down to observe the flower dry while enjoying the progress. When it is fully dry, flip the case again and the flower will naturally stand upright! These will be available in both copper and black online soon!
Thank you so much to everyone who was a part of this exhibition and especially to the following makers for their generous support: Jicon, Futagami, Takahashi Kougei, Hayashi Kougei, 10¹² Terra, Mother Tool, MokuNeji, RetRe, Daiyo, Onami, Ibazen, Akarino-Tane, To-Mo-Ni. The products featured at the exhibition and within these photos will be available online soon.
Special thanks to Armando Rafael Moutela for capturing photos of this special event for us!
場所と場所が組む - “Connect
Announcing an upcoming event we’re very excited to be hosting in collaboration with Oji and Design.
This special exhibition entitled, KUMU, is about connecting one place with another while embracing each other’s culture and community. We’re thrilled to be welcoming Oji Masonori and friends to NYC for the second time now and can’t wait to showcase their beautiful designs at Nalata Nalata! Everyone is welcome!
The three-day exhibition will kick-off with an opening reception and sake tasting event on January 23rd. Meet the designers behind some of our favorite products while trying a selection of sake from regions of the designs being exhibited.
Details are as follows:
Poster designed in collaboration with Megan Hall of Basislager Atelier.
We’ve had many milestone events last year and can’t wait for what’s ahead… Happy 2nd Birthday Nalata Nalata!
So we opened up our first storefront on 2 Extra Place recently! As many of our closest family and friends know, Stevenson and I are pretty superstitious and hold a few spiritual customs to heart. One such ritual is to have our new projects and endeavors “blessed” by holding a small ceremony. With the opening of the shop, we were lucky enough to have Steve’s Dad, Dr. Aung, available to perform the ceremony. Steve’s parents flew in the morning of our opening day and pulled up in a cab just as we were ripping off the paper that boarded the windows during construction. Pretty symbolic for two incredibly superstitious individuals! Dr.Aung walked around the space while bestowing good energy and good wishes to every corner of the shop… It was a casual event but a meaningful one nonetheless. Just wanted to share some photos from that morning!
With a sense of overwhelming triumph, we finally find ourselves with the very first Nalata Nalata storefront up and running in Manhattan. It has been a long journey to this point, and one we couldn’t have done without the ongoing support of our loyal online customers. Meeting our clients in person has been one of the greatest joys of having a physical store thus far. We put a lot of heart and soul into every detail of the buildout and are excited to unveil the final product with these photos taken just before opening our doors for the first time.
Visit our new storefront at 2 Extra Place, on 1st street between 2nd avenue and the Bowery. We’re excited to show you around!
Meet Jacob and Ari, the talented couple building our custom made cabinets and shelves for our new Manhattan storefront! We’ve briefly mentioned them in our Journal recently but wanted to show everyone a sneak peek of all the incredible work they have been doing for the buildout.
I first met Jacob at the wood-shop when I was completing my masters at Pratt. He is a magician with wood and one of the few woodworkers I trust implicitly. In the past Jacob had helped me construct a few glass and wood side tables I designed and a few years down the road, we’re working together again, although the scope of this project is much larger. To help with it all is his girlfriend Ari, also a maker at heart, an industrial designer and a superb wood finisher!
Angy and I took a drive to Staten Island a couple weekends ago to visit their wood-shop, which was converted from a cool building erected in 1911. When the garage door lifts to reveal a glimpse of our display tables, we are completely elated! The details are just as we imagined and the two different finishes of white oak looked even better in person than in our sketches. We can’t wait to reveal the final products. The cabinets will be transported and installed at 2 Extra Place this week, a few finishing touches will be added and we’ll be open soon after!
Thank you again to Jacob and Ari for being such a huge part of our first storefront!