As you can probably surmise from the above photo, we have some exciting news we would like to share! We are expecting a baby, due in early April!
I’m not going to lie, the first three month were pretty rough. Sheer exhaustion prevented me from doing anything but lay around and read Game of Thrones and nap. As a result, John had to manage the shop, blog and all the every day things by himself. Thankfully he’s been very supportive and I am now feeling a lot more energetic, so we’re hoping to get the blog back on track.
This news is why we dashed off to Japan again, to secure some new artisans and pieces for the shop before we can’t travel to far flung places for quite some time. While John picked up his usual gorgeous trays and cutlery, I had a more singular focus…
A set of handmade baby cutlery from Westside33 in Kyoto, and a natural maple baby rattle we purchased at an exhibition in Tokyo. The wood produces a really soft sound, and it makes a good shaker if you need some percussion.
This hang tag is given out in the Tokyo JR stations to expecting women so that people will know to give up their seat. Sadly, this didn’t work for me on the long train ride to Oji Masanori’s new home. My baby bump (aka food baby) wasn’t prominent enough. But it’s a nice idea.
A silk baby bonnet from Finland. I bought one of these during my first trip to Iceland because I saw it on all of the babies, and I wasn’t sure I would ever find it again. Of course, when we opened the shop we hunted some down, and they are available in store and soon online.
A baby bib by Akiko Ando, a clothing artist from Tajimi city. We have a small collection of her husband’s ceramics (Masanobu Ando) currently in our store.
A soft cotton blanket by Yumiko Sekine for Fog Linen.
We’ll keep you up to date on any big milestones, and maybe some design minded baby stuff we come into contact with, but don’t worry, this isn’t going to become a baby blog! We promise!!!
During our most recent trip, a lot of you noticed the new bag I was wearing. We were both really happy that people noticed, the bag is actually a prototype travel bag that was a collaboration between maker Sarra Tang (HOI BO), and Mjölk. We took it with us for a crash test in Japan, catching different trains every day, spending a new day in a different city, and only using one day trip bag everywhere we went.
The collaboration started after Juli purchased a HOI BO bag for herself, and we posted it on our blog. Sarra saw it and came over to the shop and bought one of our Eve bracelets by Claesson Koivisto Rune. Later they got together over dinner with a mutual friend and after finding a lot of similarities in sensibility a collaboration started to make a lot of sense. After visits to the studio, and bites at the Drake the essence of the bag started to take shape. For all of us the resulting bag had to reflect the shared belief of a perfect balance between form and function.
For Sarra the real challenge was to design a toiletry case and bag that could be used for a man and woman. Not create a genderless bag, but a bag that complimented each gender in a different way.
All bags and leather work are exclusively made at the HOI BO studio in the Historic Distillery District
Fabric : Waxed canvas, 100% Cotton. Made in the US since 1847
The fiber is both water and soil repellent
Leather : Naked bark tanned leather. Tanned in the US since 1881
Hardware : Solid Brass
Also features a black leather cover for cellphone pouch.
To compliment the bag a pair of two leather toiletry case were made and designed by Sarra. There is no machine work used on the leather case, they are entirely sewn and fabricated by hand using natural tanned leather. The brass details are all designed and cast by HOI BO.
We felt it was really important to share with you Sarra Tang’s studio space to get a feel of where and how these pieces are all made. The space is located in the Distillery and open to the public, you can also buy her work in the studio.
One of the first things I noticed in the store, besides the beautiful partially finished beeswax bags hanging in the ceiling, was the custom made plywood clothes hangers with a layer of natural leather stamped with “HOI BO”, they even had a sand cast brass hanger. That level of thoughtfulness in her space was something I instantly admired and connected with.
Partially finished beeswaxed bags hang from the ceiling, interestingly enough they look like beehives hanging from the white painted ceiling.
Natural blocks of beeswax.
With a team of three makers, all of HOI BO’s work is hand crafted in-house with deep consideration for both quality and innovation of process. Their satchels are created in production runs of 4-6 pieces allowing them to focus intimately on every detail.
A collection of leather accessories with the ubiquitous tomato pin cushion.
A brief shot of the work desk.
Coming full circle back to the bag, we’re going to be having a launch party on October 21st, where you will be able to purchase the bag. We will only have a limited amount available since the production runs are small in order to keep a high standard of quality.
The bag can be worn three different ways, as a backpack, shoulder bag, and messenger bag. You can also remove all of the straps to create a beautiful brief case. Above you can see the bag in a couple different uses.
We hope to see you at the event!
On one of our last days in Japan we stopped at Toukyo Gallery, a famous gallery in Tokyo specifically for exhibiting Japanese handcrafts. The gallery is filled with original George Nakashima furniture, which was purchased by the owner of the gallery at a Nakashima exhibition in the 1980s. His collection is now priceless.
Here at the gallery we got to meet Tomiyama Koichi in person, an artist that we have been working closely with to bring his works to our store. Koichi san has a wonderful collection of studio work which consist of beautiful handmade cutting boards, trays, spoons, and pendant lights. But he also spends a lot of time experimenting with different materials and lacquer finishes and continues to show one of a kind art pieces at galleries all over Japan.
In this photo you can see the studio cutting boards on the top shelf, and then black lacquer dishes, and at the very bottom a completely unique idea. finishing slabs of slate with traditional white lacquer-ware, Koichi-san mentions he doesn’t think this has been experimented with before.
The front of the store has a beautiful long George Nakashima bench, with a collection of ceramics.
George Nakashima dining table.
A set of wood nesting bowls in different lacquerware finishes: black, white, and red.
Each colour is made from a tree sap mixed with a different powder metal.
A hand tooled tray we’re looking at stocking in the store very soon.
One of the few hand turned bowls in the exhibition.
A new material Tomiyama Koichi has been exploring is hammered steel. He made this small metal table for the exhibiton, and on top is his collection of new coffee scoops (which are now on our online store). The wooden trays are used to bring grounded coffee to the filter for easy pouring.
Of course while we were at the exhibition a couple pieces caught our eye, and we couldn’t help picking them up. One of our favorite ideas was this tomato tin, it was re-purposed to be used as a storage container. The bottom and top were replaced with wood and finished with Japanese urishi. The fit is perfect, and it will look beautiful in our kitchen.
A set of some of our collection so far.
The other piece we got was this butter knife. It is actually made from old discarded stainless steel butter knifes. The original long blade is cut down and made more functional, the original handle is hammered down and finished with Japanese urushi.
You can see a little bit of the old flower pattern in the handle.
Please visit our online store, or the physical store to see our collection of Tomiyama Koichi!
We stayed the night in Kanazawa, and the next day we caught a 3 hour train to Kyoto. We checked in to the Kyoto Hayatt Regency, one of the most beautiful hotels we’ve ever stayed at. It was designed by Takashi Sugimoto and it’s stunning lobby is filled with back lit pattered mill paneling. The Japanese restaurant in the basement is furnished with George Nakashima style shaker furniture and the food is spectacular, you just want to sit at the bar and watch the sushi chef work away sipping some Japanese whiskey.
We decided to hit the back streets during our day in Kyoto, but we underestimated how hot it would be in September. It was unbelievably hot, and we didn’t really have a grasp on how far all of the places we wanted to visit were from each other.
I always see beautiful cars in Japan, I’ve always admired these old Fiats.
One of the shops I really wanted to visit was only a couple blocks away from our hotel. It’s a mom and pop shop that carries an amazing collection of hand hammered kitchenware.
Most of the pieces are hand hammered aluminum, but you can find lots of beautiful copper and brass products as well.
A fantastic collection of brass ladles, it’s a shame because I don’t think you can actually sell brass kitchen products in Canada anymore.
The cane wrapped handles paired with the copper was just beautiful.
I guess every country has their own version of the crazy pigeon lady.
We spent most of the day walking the back streets of Kyoto and passed so many beautiful courtyards.
A cute little French cafe, we’d love to stop in but we’re on a mission!
The must see place for us was the Sfera gallery, which was designed by one of our favorite architect firms Claesson Koivisto Rune.
The facade is made of die cut metal cladding with repetitive organic patterns. The building itself is on another level, there is a gallery space, a store, and a bar / cafe in the basement. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take any photos inside so you’ll have to check out CKR’s website for some images of the interior.
We headed downstairs to the cafe and had some much needed ice coffee.
The cafe backs onto an alley and we had the whole building to ourselves so we took our time and enjoyed the nice breeze.
We were allowed to take some photos of the basement, so here you go.
We needed to have some food so we headed out to Efish, a cafe that was recommended to us by a reader.
There was a beautiful view of the river and they had a special pineapple beer on offer that I really enjoyed. We just has some sandwiches which were nothing really special, the big feature here was the nice vibe and the view.
Just next door was a legitimate char cedar temple, it really put our charred cedar store facade to shame. It had the texture of reptile skin and the burns were through.
We had some amazing luck during our trip because it turns out our friend Liza from Frederica was in Japan at the same time as us. There’s nothing better than visiting with friends when you’re in another country and we decided to meet at our hotel for a drink before heading out for dinner.
Liza snagged a reservation at a highly local recommended restaurant which promises a quiet meal on the river. The only problem was navigating through the winding back streets to actually find the restaurant. We were in very good hands because Liza used to live in Osaka and can speak Japanese fluently, she even has all of the gestures down pat, it’s amazing to watch her interact with locals.
We entered a beautiful and narrow restaurant and walked through to a back patio.
It was a beautiful evening, the temperature had cooled down, the sky was clear, and stars started dotted the skyline. The only problem was someone across the river murdering a saxophone.
This might have been his/her second time playing the saxophone, they were struggling through scales for hours and the peak effort was a failed attempt at Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The good thing was the sake was flowing and we all had a great sense of humor about it and just allowed the performer to entertain us.
There were too many plates to photograph, I swear there was 15 courses, we lost count after 10, and we were full after 5. It was epic, but in the best way possible.
Did you know you aren’t supposed to pour yourself sake? You’re supposed to serve others and let someone else serve you. I was wondering why Liza kept pushing sake on me!
The most interesting dish of the night was this little river fish. Apparently the fish is too sensitive to be hook fished, so they use cormorants (a river bird) to catch the fish. It was grilled and had an interesting texture to it, almost grainy. We definitely won’t forget this meal, thanks again Liza!
We arrived in Japan on Monday the 12th, we were only going to be in the country for 5 days and we wanted to explore as many regions we could. The first thing we wanted to do, was hop on a train and visit the beautiful city of Kanazawa. We got up really early and caught the first train leaving, we only had coffee to hold us over on the 3 hour train ride.
By the time we dropped off our bags at the hotel is was still pretty early in the morning and most of the restaurants near by were closed. We discovered a cool looking ramen place that was remarkably open, we shrugged and sat at the counter.
We love these hand hammered pots, we see them all over. We have a bit more refined and artisan made version of these pots in our store for sale (while quantities last)
The ramen turned out to be the perfect breakfast. The cook used a blow torch to char the pork a bit, and topped everything off with half a hard boiled egg. It was like having bacon and eggs! It would also be the best ramen we would have on the trip, so if you’re in Kanazawa keep an eye out for this place.
A cute shop called Gallerie Noyau, unfortunately it was closed.
We did have some luck with this beautiful metal works shop, the owner had handcrafted jewelry, cutlery, and a collection of ceramics and glass.
Kokon makes handmade leather shoes, I love seeing workshops with front retail spaces.
Being in Kanazawa we had to visit the 21st Century museum by one of our favorite architect firms SANAA. The musuem has a circular glass facade so at points you can see right through the building to the other side. The exhibition rooms are box shaped rooms surrounding a central circular courtyard.
SANAA also designed all of the furniture inside and outside, the outside acts as a park and gathering place for museum patrons.
One of the most famous features of the Museum is this illusion pool, you may have seen a video of it before. Unfortunately the underside was closed when we were there.
The famous Rabbit chairs which are used in many of SANAA’s buildings, they even have tiny scale models of the chairs they place in models of their buildings. There were tons of beautiful details inside the museum, but we weren’t allowed to photograph them for you. So just Google it!
It would have been amazing to have another day in Kanazawa, the pacing was really laid back. We’ll be back!
After being featured in Dwell we thought it would be fun to re-introduce ourselves. We’ve met a lot of new people in the store and one thing we heard over and over was that the photos they saw didn’t really reflect the true scale of the store, or the range of work we sell.
We thought this would be a great time to share some updated photos, and also share a more in depth experience of the new online store.
A new shot of the front half of the store, the white risers are lined in one row showcasing more of our artisan products.
New coffee scoops by Japanese artist Tomiyama Koichi, soon to be added to the online store.
A photo of our store’s functioning kitchen, complete with a teak counter top and blue Vola faucet by Arne Jacobsen. We empty this counter during events, it’s the perfect place to rest your drink.
The back of the showroom with our newest cabinetry addition, designed by Studio Junction. This is where we feature our more personal accessories including magnetic business card cases by Masakage Tanno, leather works by Kenton Sorensen, and our new perfume created by Comme Des Garcons for Artek.
The Japanese coffee light is by the same artist who makes the coffee scoops, it features a handmade walnut lamp shade.
Trinidad chairs and Hiroshima dining table in front of our oak and glass shoji inspired sliding door. Our furniture offerings are a bit sparse at the moment but all that will change by the end of the month when Fredericia and Asplund arrive!
So if you came to our shop and purchased something, you’d be taking it home in our little brown paper bags with a sticker enclosure.
We spent a lot of time thinking about how we could bring the experience of the brick and mortar shop to our online customers. We started with the idea of printing boxes, and came up with the idea of creating a wire cage milk bottle crate image on the box. Once we had the milk theme down it was easy, for the small box we would have a milk pitcher inspired by our favourite milk pitcher by Kaj Franck for Arabia, and the largest box we would have a large milk pail.
We took our initial ideas and mock ups and gave them to Sali Tabacchi to be refined. They took our simple drawings and took them to the next level, giving them life and movement, the upside down bottles, stacked milk pitchers, and the return address foil stamp – all their ideas.
So when ordering from us, how would we wrap up the following:
Kenton Sorensen passport wallet
Nendo Corona mini globe
Mjölk tea towel
The wallet we would wrap in some beautiful wax paper, we’re using this paper for our brushes, leather products, and small woodware.
The Corona globe comes in a simple box so we wrap it in some additional brown paper, tag it with our mjölk sticker and tie it with natural twine.
The tea towel is simply wrapped in white tissue paper and closed with a sticker.
Now if you’ve purchase from us before these boxes you might say “Hey! I just purchased from you guys and the packaging wasn’t this nice!” That might be true since if the box is really beautiful, or if the item is a hard shape to wrap we might have simply wrapped it in some simple tissue paper. Now that we have the new boxes we’re going to try our best to stick to this caliber of packaging, hopefully we’ll find even more inspiration during our next trip to Japan.
The stickers are designed to be both right side and upside down because we use them as a close on our store paper bags. We also include hand written notes with our orders on over sized business cards.
Ps. We re-use clean bubble wrap, packing peanuts and any other crazy materials to fill these boxes out. Reduce, reuse, recycle!