As tradition goes, Paul Lawrence Lewis curated the tracks for our recent exhibition. Paul leaned into Masanobu Ando’s collection of CDs discovered during his studio visit to create a playlist that includes seven songs of classic rock and seven contemporary reactions to those songs. Ultimately creating two playlists that interact and intersect. Hope you enjoy.
Listen to the full-length version above or download it here.
The end of our Masanobu Ando exhibition, Shaping the Void, has come and gone. One thing we can all agree on is that the show was one of our best. Here are some highlights from our time with Ando-san and moments from the exhibition.
When Ando-san arrived in New York, one of the first things he did was add finishing touches to some of the works. The more delicate elements like the copper handle on the Silver Teapot were transported from Japan separately and assembled on the spot.
Ando-san is known for several different types of glazes, mostly for his matte whites and metallic silvers. His common metals are resonates of silver platinum and pewter but sometimes include gold. The finished wares are food safe and can be used with hot or cold liquids and food. They can be washed like everyday pottery and much like silver jewelry retain their luster the more they are used.
As someone who is just getting into the comprehensive world of tea, thinking back on our Masanobu Ando exhibition the best part had to have been the abundance of teaware. Everything from teacups and teapots were available and even pieces for what we’d consider more advanced tea drinkers like water disposal containers, teapot warmers, tea funnels, and drainers.
Chawan, vessels used for preparing and drinking tea, are often considered a potter’s masterpiece hence they are some of the hardest works to create. The goal is to make the perfect vessel for enjoying a cup of matcha tea – many elements are considered like good balance, weight, angle of the lip and the shape of the foot. They need to be in good harmony but more importantly feel intuitive to the maker and user. In this way chawan’s are very poetic in nature and to create them is challenging. It was interesting to see which chawan people gravitated towards of the three that were in the exhibition – silver, black or gold.
One of our favourite things at the exhibition was the traveling tea set Ando-san had assembled. The sets include tools and equipment needed to prep and serve three people. The pieces all fit within a small leather case like a puzzle and include custom made textiles for protecting and carrying.
Ayako Kurokawa of Burrow prepared Roasted Green Tea and Short Bread Strawberry Caramel cookies for the tea pairing. For the rest of the night we had our favourite local mochis flowing by Fujiko of Mochi Rin. She took the exhibition concept and ran with it creating marbleized sweet and savoury mochi!
We kept the dining table setup from the tea ceremony for the duration of the show. The new rich brown, oak dining table and dining chairs by Ibazen combined beautifully with Ando-san’s works that have a weathered rustic feel. The playlist Paul Lawrence Lewis created for the exhibition also played throughout the week. We turned it into a CD that Ando-san could add to his large collection at Momogusa. Listen to the playlist here.
Our obligatory Extra Place alley team photo is missing a bunch of people this time but you know who you are! Thank you to everyone who helped out during the exhibition! It takes a lot of hands and help every time we put up a show and are so grateful for everyone who rolls through. In particular thank you to Ando-san and his assistants, Aya Nihei, Owen Smith-Clark, Paul Lawrence Lewis, the team at Studio Newwork, Armando Rafael Moutela, Nau Kim, Ingmar Chen, Joshua Skirtich, Ayako and Wataru and their team at Burrow and Fujiko of Mochi Rin.
Between all the groundwork and long nights, the periods of the year we spend in preparation for exhibition openings are our best. Ideas between team members and collaborators are flowing and adrenaline levels run high. From the moment the delivery truck drops off packages containing the exhibition collection at our studio’s doorstep to the final placement of an object on our gallery shelves, the energy spent getting an exhibition installed in the weeks before the opening are all in the name of craft obsession. The most exciting feeling can be summed up in the moment we open a package sent from Japan and pull out the exhibition works for the first time.
The experience is described in this short video that captures the journey of the Silver Teapot by Masanobu Ando, from the moment it was unwrapped in our Brooklyn studios to when it was placed in our gallery in Manhattan awaiting the arrival of it’s maker to place the final touch – a copper handle.
Videography and Production: Owen Smith-Clark
There’s something naturally appealing about walking into a green forest and even more so when it guides you down a path to a place that is just as wildly inspirational.
The place I’m writing about is Gallerie Momogusa – the gallery and café of Masanobu Ando and Akiko Ando, his wife, propped in the middle of lush green woods in Tajimi, Japan. This was the setting that welcomed us as we entered a very special day in the life of the lauded ceramic artisan.
Gallerie Momogusa opened in 1998 after Ando-san found a traditional tea ceremony house from the 19th century and converted it to a gallery. The remarkable remodel of the teahouse is a topic onto itself but once inside the gallery, it’s hard for pottery lovers like us to concentrate on anything but the tables and tables full of beautiful ceramic works. We also loved perusing through a massive shelf of classic rock and funk CDs Masanobu Ando has been collecting.
Some works are sculptural in nature while others represent Ando-san’s more functional wares. Still both exist to give us a full scope of his career in ceramics over the past few decades. They also make clear to us that his goal is not just to produce tableware but also to express his philosophy of life, which the artisan touches upon in his exhibition statement for our upcoming show, Shaping the Void.
As our exhibition draws near, this visit feels more relevant than ever as it was the first time Ando-san showed us one of his tea ceremony setups in his tea room. Since we’ll be preparing a Chinese tea ceremony demonstration on opening night, images from this visit to Gallerie Momogusa reminds us of all the components that are involved in a traditional tea ceremony. For example, water selection and temperature, necessary tools, ambiance and technique. All these elements have to come together to create a harmonious experience. The nuanced manner in which Tea Masters combine the elements is what makes each ceremony uniquely their own.
After exploring the many rooms at Gallerie Momogusa including Akiko Ando’s textiles and apparel room, and the café, we pile into Ando-san’s Mercedes Turbo Wagon and he drives us to his studio where all the magic happens.
At the studio, we meet Ando-san’s dog Chico, see some of his tools, large-scale works in progress, and check out his office, again full of hundreds of CDs – there Ando-san spends long hours exploring new ideas for vessels while listening to one of many album options. For our visit, Ando-san turns up the speakers full blast to James Taylor and talks to us in depth about his techniques and his career – which we will soon share in a separate interview conducted by our writer and contributor, Aya Nihei.
With the exhibition around the corner, we cannot wait to welcome Ando-san to New York to show a growing base of collectors and enthusiasts outside of Japan such a beautiful collection in person. When I think about what Ando-san’s ceramics does, its about achieving pieces one can cherish in everyday moments – the perfect teacup for gatherings, a favourite dish for morning cereal, or a charming fruit bowl for the dining room table – there is no better medium then ceramics to accomplish this feeling and no one who does it quite as meaningfully as Masanobu Ando.
Photos by Armando Rafael Moutela
Masanobu Ando, born 1957, started his career creating contemporary art and studying Buddhism. Following this period, he channeled his influence derived from Zen culture into his works and began creating functional objects for daily life. In 1988, he remodeled an original Japanese ceremonial teahouse into a gallery called Gallerie Momogusa. Our time spent with the artisan has been valuable in understanding his approach to craftsmanship, affirming that within the void lies a profound world to be discovered.
We are honoured to present this special guest feature written by Masanobu Ando, on the occasion of our exhibition Shaping the Void.
The entry below was translated from Japanese to English.
My first visit to New York was 1985. I was aspiring to be a contemporary artist. I remember it was at the MoMA museum that I encountered Japanese Mingei works, Netsuke (carved wooden buttons used to hang items from kimono sashes) from the Edo era, and vessels by Rosanjin Kitaōji. This discovery made me feel a bit relieved from the pressures of being an artist. I started to think about what the definition of art is for the Japanese and there were two noteworthy observations for me – that crafts rather than fine art were being represented as Japanese art and that they were not made for being admired, but rather for being used.
After the country opened from seclusion to the Western world in 1845, the Japanese began adopting Western culture. Meanwhile, the Japanese government promoted export handicrafts, aimed for being admired. The Japanese government encouraged craft artisans to manufacture world-class works comparable to fine art. Not only Western culture but entire belief systems were imported to Japan so the hierarchy that regarded fine arts as superior to craft works was also adopted. It resulted in a twisted cultural structure in Japan; handicrafts held a low position in representing Japan’s cultural heritage. Since then, the craft industry rivaled the fine art industry and the original belief that crafts should be made to be used was about to be forgotten.
When I started to make ceramic works, I felt something was wrong with this situation in Japan. My interest shifted towards creating vessels for daily life, without any support by the government or ambitions to rise within the hierarchy. I tried not to create for self-expression but instead with intuition that derived from my Japanese DNA. Another motive was to find a middle ground between high-priced and mass-produced tableware because I could hardly find handcrafted pieces that I could cherish in my everyday life.
I started to create tableware in the late 20th century. At the same time, Japanese artisans who worked with different mediums as me but with similar philosophies began to appear. Eventually the phenomenon became a movement called Seikatsu Kogei. There is no categorization, no hierarchy in Seikatsu Kogei. By the 21st century the concept emerged all over the world and it seems like it is still spreading widely. The goal of artisans with the Seikatsu Kogei philosophy is to create crafts that are eco-friendly and sustainable that also give a sense of joy to the maker, user, and seller. Instead of applying unnecessary decorative elements to ceramics, we keep blank spaces within sculptures and vessels to inspire the user’s way of interaction with the piece.
The appearance of a ceramic plate can differ according to what kind of food is being served on it and how it is plated. When you come in contact with vessels handcrafted by artisans, senses awaken and things that were invisible come alive. If we can define the experience as art, then there are no boundaries between fine arts and crafts. I hope my works, the shapes and voids will inspire your imagination to infinite possibilities.
Works by Masanobu Ando featured in these images will be available during the exhibition.
Photography by Armando Rafael Moutela.
I cannot graciously highlight my excitement towards our latest print series with Matthew Johnson without first explaining the path which brought us to working with this talented photographer. Matthew is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area – the East Bay, between Oakland and San Jose. He made his way to the East Coast to get a sense of the unique culture of New York – a city he describes as a “rite of passage”. It was around this time that we first met Matthew during a photoshoot for Cereal magazine at our storefront. Straight away we appreciated his sensitivity in each frame he captured and have been following his career path as a photographer ever since. We’ve traveled to Japan with Matthew (photo essays from an especially memorable trip can be found in a two part series here and here) and dived into numerous video projects.
The most valuable aspect of our collaboration has been the friendship we’ve developed over the years as we work alongside him and witness his personal life evolve simultaneously. Since our first encounter, Matthew has married his then girlfriend, Amy, rescued an adorable dog named Rye, and has moved to Hudson to embark on an exciting new retail venture of his own called Say Collie. We headed North one afternoon to catch up with our friend and see what’s new at his home and studio.
Matthew’s home is an inspiring mix of his wife’s interior found objects and wall art – many of which are his own photographs, and the works of other artists we admirer like Nicole Patel.
If the lens is where the mind meets the world for the photographer, then Matthew’s lens is out to tell a story. Each image has a narrative quality that undoubtedly stems from his background as a writer. His ability to create images that have a tacit familiarity yet stand out as something important to show the world is a rare gift.
Light is central to all photographs but especially in Matthew’s as it is his way of creating shapes. Accordingly his photos never feel like random snapshots. His use of light is intentional and his way of capturing an incredible black and white tonal range, especially in 35mm film, has always amazed us.
Whenever we look at the print series Matthew created throughout our journeys in Japan, it slows us down a moment to decipher the time and place. The photographs achieve a sense of timelessness in that manner – there is something so special about them but as I continue to search for the words to capture Matthew’s language in photography, I can’t find anything that will do it justice. So I’ll let the images speak for themselves.
View Matthew Johnson’s limited edition fine art photography series here.
At times with beautiful dishware comes the feeling of not wanting to use them! We’ve experienced this firsthand over the years but with the help of the artisan’s who have given us pointers on how to care for their handmade works in a way that brings out the best quality of the materials, we’ve overcome this impediment. Nowadays, we can safely say that we’ve grown from admirers to proud users of all the handicrafts we bring home. With this new Journal series, we hope to instill a bit more confidence in anyone who is hesitating to break in their pieces. After all, the only way to ruin a piece, is to not use and enjoy them.
Our first care guide is on urushi lacquerware. Traditional urushi lacquerware is made from the sap drawn from the trunk of an urushi tree. There is none better then Ryuji Mitani – the king of crossing limits between art and objects for everyday use – to give us his urushi daily care tips. Luckily caring for urushi is much simpler than we imagined. Here are instructions adapted from Ryuji Mitani’s notes during our exhibition with him.
1. If non-oily foods were used in the piece, rinse the piece under lukewarm water.
2. If there are oily areas, instead of solely lukewarm water, use a mild dish detergent and soft sponge to gently clean the piece. Rinse away all soap residue. Do not use metallic scrubbing pads, as they will cause the urushi to scratch and eventually peel.
3. After rinsing, fully dry the piece with a soft cloth. Leave the piece out to dry on a dish rack overnight before storing.
4. Store the piece on a shelf or in a cabinet with good airflow.
– Avoid soaking urushi pieces in water for prolonged periods.
– Leaving urushi wares in direct sunlight for an extended time may cause discoloration.
– Urushi tableware will become less glossy and more matte as time goes by, this is expected and will give the piece a rich texture.
– It is not recommended to place in microwave.
– Urushi wares are not dishwasher safe as this could cause dents in the wood.
– Drastic temperature changes may cause the wood to warp therefore we do not recommend placing in the refridgerator.
The ‘White Urushi Rimmed Bowl’ pictured in this guide can be found here.
It’s the perfect time of year to make an Apple Crumble. This family recipe by Momoko and Tetsuya Otani was made into recipe cards to share with guests during our exhibition with the potter couple. Here’s an online version in time for the holidays. Bake it in a Medium Clay Baking Pan and serve in a Blue Lotus Dish with ice cream for a quick and easy holiday dinner dessert!
– 5 small apples peeled, cored and sliced about 1 inch thick
– 2 tablespoons butter
– 3 tablespoons sugar
– ½ a lemon’s juice
– 2 tablespoons water
– ½ cup walnuts cut into small chunks
– 1 cup all purpose flour
– ½ cup sugar
– 3 ½ oz butter cut into small cubes (about ½ inch wide)
1. Mix flour and sugar in a mixer, then add butter. Blend just until the mixture comes together, until it has a crumbly texture. Note: Crumble can be made in advance and chilled in the refridgerator.
2. Preheat the oven to 190 °C / 375 °F.
We are pleased to present the curated mix by Paul Lewis that played during the opening reception of our Ryuji Mitani exhibition, Blurring Boundaries. The full-length version is available to listen to above and can be downloaded here.
Last month was the month of Ryuji Mitani! Almost everything sold out at the exhibition but there is a small selection of items that are currently going online. It’s a bitter sweet feeling for us to hand off these rare pieces that sold but its given rise to an unprecedented amount of documentation from the team. Our favorite images is a 35mm series that Ingmar Chen took around the store during the installation and opening, a vintage feel fitting for Mitani-san’s personal style. Here they are mixed in with images from our adventures with Mitani-san in upstate NY.
We designed low display tables for this exhibition to showcase Mitani-san’s collection from a low vantage point. The beauty in his works lies in the urushi lacquering within the pieces and we wanted to showcase that feature from above.
The opening was an amazing night! So many people came out to see Ryuji Mitani. We were especially eager to welcome the avid collectors who flew from all over the world to attend. Junko-san, Mitani-san’s wife, flew in from Japan along with some of their close friends like Natsumi-san (wife of architect Yoshifumi Nakamura). Mitani-san brought cross-shaped cookies from his gallery in Matsumoto called ‘10cm’. The shape is the Japanese character for the number ten, a motif you can see in a lot of Mitani-san’s works like the Jū Cross Plate and cross trivet.
We had been dying to work with our neighbors Momofuku KO since the day we both simultaneously opened our doors for business on Extra Place and felt like this was the perfect occasion. They went above and beyond to provide bites for the opening. The menu included Uni Tart, Chicken Oyster, Arancini and Scallops served on Mitani-san’s large Serving Trays. The work of culinary and woodworking greats, though in different industries, married beautifully.
Throughout the rest of the week we did some site seeing with the Mitanis in New York. Mitani-san also wanted to bring us to the Hancock Shaker Village Museum in Massachusetts as he fondly remembered his experience there over a decade ago when he went with Yoshifumi Nakamura. We packed a car and headed North with the Mitanis along with Aya, her husband Atsushi Miwa, and Natsumi-san.
We could see why Mitani-san liked the museum. The Hancock Shaker Village is utopia for craft lovers. The grounds of this particular Shaker settlement, that dates back to the late 1700s, is incredibly well maintained, there are original Shaker craft items abound, and many are available to touch and use. They also have demonstrations of the machinery and farming tools that you can try your hand at.
Visiting the Hancock Shaker Village became a catalyst to take a trip to Hudson for antique shopping. We met up with Matthew Johnson who recently moved to Hudson with his wife, interior designer Amy Row, and had a lovely family din at Rivertown Lodge where we were staying. It was a nice chance to reminisce on the making of the exhibition video Matt created.
When we were back in the city, Mitani-san spent much of his time at the exhibition, giving visitors the opportunity to put a face to the work, an extra special experience for people bringing pieces home with them because Mitani-san has stories about all the pieces he makes.
Every exhibition we organize a collaboration piece with the artisan or designer. In commemoration of our Blurring Boundaries exhibition, we worked with Ryuji Mitani to create a piece that blends both cultures and traditions – American sundaes and traditional Japanese craftsmanship. The goal was to produce the ultimate ice cream cup! Which is what we effectively tried to do by means of a perfectly round bowl that fits comfortably in the hand, signature white urushi lacquer finish and footed circular stand. Not visible in the photos is the best part, which is the beautiful brush strokes at the bottom of the bowl much like the marks of the White Urushi Rimmed Bowl. We love the idea of eating your way to the bottom of a piece to reveal a beautiful surprise. Unfortunately, we sold out out of the ice cream cup in a day but the good news, for those patient enough, is that Ryuji Mitani is making a limited amount for 2018!
The night before they left back to Japan we gave Mitani-san a vinyl record that we had made him as a souvenir with the help of Pablo Luis. Pablo curated the mix for the exhibition opening, a continuing tradition that goes back to our very first exhibition at the store. The full-length mix that played at the opening reception is available here.
We’ve had the opportunity to spend quality time with Ryuji Mitani, we’ve learned his language with wood and we have memories that will carry on for a lifetime but we couldn’t have pulled off this particular exhibition without the help of a lot of people coming together to make it happen. Huge thank you to Ryuji Mitani, Junko Mitani, Aya Nihei, John Medley, Armando Rafael Moutela, Matthew Johnson, Pablo Luis, Ingmar Chen, Ainsley Moy, Nau Kim, Riza Arrieta, Faraday Okoro, Sujin Lee and the team at Momofuku KO.