The Oxo Tower is a London landmark. Saved from the developers by a bitterly-fought campaign and refurbished in the nineties, it’s now the centrepiece of the preserved Coin St area on the South Bank, just along from the brutalist modern architecture of the National Theatre and right next to Bernie Spain Gardens (familiar to fans of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series as the site of the Spring Court). Below it, next to the riverside path, is a red-brick block that is home to a fascinating selection of designer and artisan shops. Which explains why I was there on one of the few non-rainy days this month – visiting Wagumi, the Japanese design store.
Wagumi is on the first floor at Oxo Tower Wharf, so if you’ve walked along the river to the Tate Modern and stayed at ground level you’ve missed it.
Which is a shame, as it sells some wonderful Japanese crafts, including glass, ceramics and textiles. I went because they have a special show of works from the Rin Crossing collective on at the moment. I saw a bit of Rin Crossing, a new collective of Japanese craft firms, at Earls Court a few weeks back and was keen to see some more. Like these glasses decorated with goldfish and Mount Fuji which I loved at Earl’s Court and was happy to see again.
The shop is an oasis of calm away from the tourist crowds who throng the path below with cameras at the ready. (Me too, of course – hence this picture of St Paul’s taken from outside Wagumi).
Inside the shop there is a small and carefully-chosen display.
These Shikou teapots are by the Fujiso company and are suitable for either green or english tea.
These glasses are by Hirota Glass.
And these ones, Kiki Japanesque Modern, are by Kimoto Glassware which are apparently the only examples of jet-black Edo kiriko (Japanese cut glass) in the world.
The prices were a bit intimidating, as you can see from the photos. The lovely goldfish glass which I coveted didn’t have a price on it at all and I knew better than to ask -if you have to ask the price you can’t afford it as the saying goes.
Part of the attraction of the shop is the contrast between the warm interior and the cold river outside. In the summer it must have a quite different vibe – worth going back to find out.
These Moscow Mule ice coffee cups by Odakodoki Company took on an extra glow against the blue-grey of the river. They’re made of lead and tin and will keep a cold drink cold for some time.
These Chanto containers, made from wood from Shiga Prefecture, have a special acrylic board for the sliding lid that makes it look as though there’s a light inside.
These wooden espresso tea cups and saucers by Marunao Co were charming.
And who could resist this knitted tea cosy by Matsui Knitting Crafts? The manufacturers also make knit hats.
Rin Crossing are showing until 14th February. There’s also some work from Takumi, another collective which I’ll be writing about when they come to the Truman Brewery in a few weeks time, and a range of other designers.
Wagumi is open Tuesday to Sunday 11am to 6 pm.
PS If you didn’t know, the Oxo Tower gets its name from its three windows that spell out OXO. They were designed in 1928 by Albert Moore, architect of the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, makers of Oxo, as a way round a ban on advertising hoardings.