Ever since Boris approved the plans to demolish Earl’s Court and build a residential and retail estate in its place, I’ve been expecting it to sink into decay and oblivion, if not vanish altogether. But no, it’s still there, hale and hearty and actually in much better nick than I expected. Maybe that’s because the set of three exhibitions Yannick and I went to see were, as one of the titles said, top drawer, or maybe the exhibition centre is refusing to go quietly. Either way, we were impressed.
It started with the banks of computers that awaited us for registration and continued with the white carpet laid across the whole venue, the sparkling new lights, the ample supply of coffee shops and the shiny new stalls. Stalls occupied by top names in the craft and home design field, like Royal Copenhagen and Marimekko. There was a buzz about the place; plenty of visitors and a feeling of business being done.
We were heading for Handmade-Japan, a grouping of over five hundred Japanese craft makers, described as ‘a showcase of traditional beauty and balance’. They’re showing in the UK for the first time, with fifteen of them taking part in Craft. But we had a wander around first and had a happy encounter with another consortium of Japanese artisans called Rin Crossing. They had a great selection of glass and ceramic ware including these wonderful goldfish and Mount Fuji patterned glasses by Joetsu Crystal Glass:
These cut glass tumblers by Kiki Japanese Modern:
And these Dome Nail Head teapots by Roji Associates.
Then we dallied a long time at the Mashiko Pottery stall. So long, in fact, that I’m going to save it for another post and get straight on to Handmade-Japan. Their skills are diverse, ranging from chopstick-making to pearl cultivation, taking in kimonos, leather bags, shoes and brushes along the way.
The hits for me were the kimonos by Tokyo Yamaki, with their traditional fabric designs and sumptuous colours.
If a kimono doesn’t fit your lifestyle, you could go for one of these Gamaguchi clasped cloth bags by Kataoka instead. Gamaguchi means ‘toad mouth’ which is an interesting perspective on what we more pedestrianly call a clasp.
They’re made with textiles using traditional designs, like the pattern of Japanese masks.
Or you might prefer a purse made from Koshu lacquered deer hide by Inden Yamamoto. The use of deerhide dates back four hundred years, and the patterns used are traditional ones from when deerhide items were first incorporated into samurai armour.
You’ll also need some geta (wooden-soled sandals). These geta, by Chiezo, are made from mahogany with a wider cloth thong than is normal for extra comfort.
For your make up, there are these cosmetic brushes by Kashoen ((Aizawa Kikaku). They’re made from animal hair like goat, grey squirrel, pine squirrel, mink and water badger and put through more than fifty processes in a craft tradition that dates back over 130 years.
These Nanbu Hoki brushes by Takakura Kogei have a rather different purpose: dusting. They’re made from broom grass and bound together with silk thread. The grass is organically grown and harvested at the end of August when it is still green. Each brush takes five people up to a month to produce.
I would have liked to have this clock with the hands set against Oshima Tsumugi silk pongee decorated with ikat patterning by Hajime Shoji. But then, I’d have liked to have a lot of things that were on show.
And it was hard to drag Yannick away from these oh-so-desirable Nakazawa leather bags, made from ultra-thin leather so they’re surprisingly light.
Sadly, the Earl’s Court show is over (it was just a three day event, aimed more at trade buyers than the general public) but the good news is that the Rin Crossing consortium will be showing at the Wagumi shop at the Oxo Tower from 15 January to 14 February. And hopefully we’ll be seeing Handmade-Japan products turning up in shops over here before too long.