I seized the chance of a rare break in the rain earlier this week to take a trip to the Truman Brewery in Shoreditch for the opening of the Takumi exhibition. Takumi is a collective of Japanese craft studios and their show was to give UK retailers the chance to take a look at what they have to offer and maybe decide to stock it. I hope they do as I saw lots to covet there.
Takumi means ‘a highly skilled person’ and Takumi Japan uses the name to symbolise not just the skill but the devotion to their craft and the pursuit of perfection of their makers. The show includes three hundred pieces from thirty-five different companies and encompasses wood, ceramics, glassware, textiles, paper and metal products. Each company has an aesthetic approach to their products and a commitment to using original, natural materials.
The show was arranged with typically Japanese restraint in a spare white space dotted with white stands showing carefully-chosen selections of goods. The takumi symbol, a white maze-like diamond on a red circle, formed a frieze around the walls and was repeated on floor-to-ceiling banners.
You can see it here forming a background to a set of thin, reed-like lights which turned on automatically as you walked past. One of the assistants at the show obligingly ran past them for me so I could get a photo with the lights on but with nobody in the shot!
Some of the products on show were traditionally Japanese, like this uchiwa fan from Inatoh Inc, made from bamboo and specially cured paper. it has a (refillable) perfume ball in the handle, so it releases a delicate aroma as you fan yourself. Perfect in the hot Japanese summer, but here in the UK perhaps more useful as a wall decoration.
Or these beautiful chopsticks which come with their own wooden mat. This pair are decorated with cherry blossom petals and one of the petals in the large cherry blossom can be taken out and used as a chopstick rest. The Japanese text says how greatly loved cherry blossom is in Japan, and suggests than when your dream comes true you should make a gift of cherry-blossom chopsticks.
These colourful cotton tabi by Tabi Square Inc have a separate toe, for use with traditional Japanese sandals, but can also be worn as comfortable slippers.
These masu – square wooden cups for drinking sake – are made from hinoki wood by Ohashi Ryoki Co.
Other products were less culturally specific. The rings in the photo at the top of this post, by Marushin Materal Co are made from dyed aluminium and can are light enough to be worn in sets, creating your own colour combinations.
These plates are by Koishiwara Pottery, which is based in Kyushu in Southern Japan and belongs to the mingei tradition of folk craft popularised in the UK by Bernard Leach. Each item in the range is hand made.
These embroidered spiders by Harada Embroidery are fun and surprisingly attractive. They’re made with a smooth shiny rayon yarn.
I was very taken with these lacquer brooches by Urushi Art Hariya. They’re made using the maki-e technique which I’ve written about before.
These colourful brocade purses are by Ando Co, who mainly specialise in tie-dying.
Katayama Bunzaburo Shoten uses tie-dying techniques to produce three-dimensional forms.
These scarves are by Kobooriza Ltd, and are inspired by the clear streams and rivers of Ehime, one of the prefectures of Shikoku, where the factory is based.
These bamboo-framed glasses are by Roots Inc of Fukui, which is apparently where 95% of all glasses frames in Japan are manufactured. Who knew? Most are plastic, of course – Roots began making bamboo frames in 1991, the first company to do so.
The white cups in this picture are by Ar piece factory Co, produced by a new technique which mixes traditional and translucent clay. If you hold it up to the light it seems to glow from within.
I’ve only got space to show you a small selection from the exhibition, so if you have time pop down to see the rest at the Truman Brewery in Hanbury St – Takumi is there until 18th February. It’s open 10 am to 6 pm. After that you can see some of the products at Wagumi in the Oxo Tower Wharf, until February 28th. I’ve written about Wagumi recently.