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Blurring Boundaries

Wooden Tableware for Daily Life

October 20-29, 2017

Nalata Nalata is pleased to present Blurring Boundaries, an exhibition of wooden tableware by Ryuji Mitani. This is the artisan’s first solo exhibition in the United States.

Much of the distinction between the applied and the design arts breaks down when looking at Ryuji Mitaniʼs collection. With the intention of creating pieces that seamlessly integrate into our everyday lives, he uses a combination of carving and lacquering to transform solid wood into functional items for the needs of modern day living.

Ryuji Mitaniʼs signature lies within his unique way of applying lacquer, otherwise known as urushi in Japanese. Multiple coats of black or white lacquer are applied, allowing them to fully dry overnight between each application. The resulting layers protect and seal without entirely covering the wood grain. His painter-like approach, his technique of under painting, over painting, and artful semi-transparent strokes gives each piece a unique personality.

“Because I placed priority on finding my identity as an artisan over following established Japanese ways, I discovered a new world of white urushi.” – Ryuji Mitani

The exhibition is organized in sections that focus on the artisan’s carved solid wood tableware items such as bowls, trays, plates and drinking vessels, to his works that incorporate lacquer in painterly black, white and hazy strokes. A rarely seen collection of small painted wood brooches has also been organized. They exemplify Ryuji Mitani’s earliest works as a younger wood artisan, before he went on to solidify his status as a pioneer of the Seikatsu Kougei movement of Japan.

In commemoration of our exhibition, we worked with Ryuji Mitani to create the White Urushi Ice Cream Cup that will be unveiled on opening night. This piece is the result of our collaborative efforts to create the perfect ice cream cup. Which is what we tried to accomplish by means of a round bowl that fits comfortably in the hand, signature white urushi lacquer and a circular footed stand. Though the best part is the surprise at the bottom of the cup – artful brushstrokes as beautiful as a painting revealed after eating your way to the end of the dessert!

“We prefer to be simple rather than special, to be genuine rather than pretentious. We believe in choosing form carefully to make our work meaningful, as if selecting one line from a rough sketch makes the line stronger. For us, being simple has power.” – Ryuji Mitani

The opening reception will be held on October 20th. Refreshments provided by Momofuku KO. Music provided by Paul Lewis.

Read a guest Journal entry written by Ryuji Mitani about the concept of Blurring Boundaries and preview the collection here.

Explore the artisan’s studio and home in Matsumoto here.

View a recap of the event here.

Shop the Exhibition

Ice Cream Cup - White Urushi (OUT OF STOCK)
Ice Cream Cup - White Urushi (OUT OF STOCK)

Ice Cream Cup - White Urushi (OUT OF STOCK)

Ryuji Mitani for Nalata Nalata

  I am a White Urushi Ice Cream Cup. Two scoops, hot fudge and two cherries on top will cheer you right up!  

$295
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White Urushi Rimmed Plate (OUT OF STOCK)
White Urushi Rimmed Plate (OUT OF STOCK)

White Urushi Rimmed Plate (OUT OF STOCK)

Ryuji Mitani

I am a wood White Urushi Rimmed Plate. It's so good you could lick the plate. Just don't get tricked when there's none left to lick.  

$320
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Hakuboku Serving Tray (OUT OF STOCK)
Hakuboku Serving Tray (OUT OF STOCK)

Hakuboku Serving Tray (OUT OF STOCK)

Ryuji Mitani

I am a Hakuboku Serving Tray. I've got a surface big enough to hold at least two or three. Anyone care to keep me company?  

$580
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Hakuboku Small Bowl (OUT OF STOCK)
Hakuboku Small Bowl (OUT OF STOCK)

Hakuboku Small Bowl (OUT OF STOCK)

Ryuji Mitani

I am a Hakuboku Small Bowl. You'll have to eat it all for a nice surprise. At the bottom of my bowl is where it lies.  

$170
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Mamezara Mini Plate (OUT OF STOCK)
Mamezara Mini Plate (OUT OF STOCK)

Mamezara Mini Plate (OUT OF STOCK)

Ryuji Mitani

I am a wood ‘Mamezara’ Mini Plate. I’m really good at the little things.  

$95
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Thin Dish (OUT OF STOCK)
Thin Dish (OUT OF STOCK)

Thin Dish (OUT OF STOCK)

Ryuji Mitani

I am a Thin Dish. A heavy wooden base and carved walls make me especially neat for all the salads you'll eat.  

$175
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Large Salad Bowl (OUT OF STOCK)
Large Salad Bowl (OUT OF STOCK)

Large Salad Bowl (OUT OF STOCK)

Ryuji Mitani

I am a Large Salad Bowl. When it comes to wood bowls, the bigger the better.  

$695
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Wooden Dinner Spoon (OUT OF STOCK)
Wooden Dinner Spoon (OUT OF STOCK)

Wooden Dinner Spoon (OUT OF STOCK)

Ryuji Mitani

I am a Wooden Dinner Spoon. Can't think of anything better than diving head first into a bowl of soup!  

$52
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Ice Cream Spoon
Ice Cream Spoon

Ice Cream Spoon

Ryuji Mitani

I am an Ice Cream Spoon. When it comes to ice cream I just can’t stop. You’d better keep an eye on me or I’ll scoop the cherry on top!

$40
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Wooden Pasta Fork
Wooden Pasta Fork

Wooden Pasta Fork

Ryuji Mitani

I am a Wooden Pasta Fork. I love being wrapped up in a warm noodle sweater.

$55
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Jū Cross Plate (OUT OF STOCK)
Jū Cross Plate (OUT OF STOCK)

Jū Cross Plate (OUT OF STOCK)

Ryuji Mitani

I am a Jū Cross Plate. I'm the Japanese character for '10' so naturally that makes me a 10 outta 10 on the plate scale.  

$170
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Square Bread Plate (OUT OF STOCK)
Square Bread Plate (OUT OF STOCK)

Square Bread Plate (OUT OF STOCK)

Ryuji Mitani

I am a Square Bread Plate. Toast and I are the best of friends, keeping warm and crisp till the tasty end.  

$190
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Flat Tea Scoop (OUT OF STOCK)
Flat Tea Scoop (OUT OF STOCK)

Flat Tea Scoop (OUT OF STOCK)

Ryuji Mitani

I am a Flat Tea Scoop. Swoopin and scoopin into all types of tea.  

$35
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Butter Box (OUT OF STOCK)
Butter Box (OUT OF STOCK)

Butter Box (OUT OF STOCK)

Ryuji Mitani

I am a Butter Box. Butter be safe than sorry about how you serve and spread.  

$195
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Hakuboku Serving Bowl (OUT OF STOCK)
Hakuboku Serving Bowl (OUT OF STOCK)

Hakuboku Serving Bowl (OUT OF STOCK)

Ryuji Mitani

I am a Hakuboku Serving Bowl. Hot or cold, silent or bold - I look forward to what I can hold.  

$820
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Children's Chair - Spindle Back
Children's Chair - Spindle Back

Children's Chair - Spindle Back

Ryuji Mitani

I am a Spindle Back Children’s Chair. Children like chairs, are easier to build strong than they are to repair when they are older.  

$650
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