London Design Festival venues come in all shapes and sizes, from the V&A, through the big set pieces like Tent in the Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch, down to little one-off shows in out of the way places, like the one I went to earlier this week. Though I’m not sure that Stoke Newington aficionados will forgive me for calling their beloved Stokey ‘out of the way.’ But it is a 73 bus ride away from the centre, so going there takes a little more effort. I’m glad to say the effort paid off.
In Japan, when people get married, they don’t set up a list at the Japanese equivalent of John Lewis. There’s no need to; wedding guests bring gifts of money, which they present in special decorated envelopes. When Lei Yang attended a friend’s wedding in Sendai earlier this year she was fascinated by the beautifully decorated envelopes the guests presented their money gifts in, and saddened to see that such beautiful artefacts were simply thrown away afterwards. She asked to be allowed to take the envelopes back to the UK, and they now form the basis of a small exhibition at her shop, Rouge.
Attention to detail in the way a gift is wrapped and presented is typical of Japan, and will be familiar to anyone who has ever bought anything in a Japanese shop and found it ends up carefully wrapped in several layers of paper. It’s very different from traditional western culture in which it’s the thought that counts.
The envelopes dangle from thin wires in the window of the shop, which specialises in furniture and artefacts from the far east. They turn gently on the wind, giving you time to study them as they rotate.
There’s a box of envelopes piled up in front of a picture of the happy couple at their wedding. As an exhibition, it’s tiny but perfectly formed.
The envelopes are elaborate but delicate, tiny disposable works of art . I can see why Lei Yang couldn’t bring herself to see them just thrown away.
Rouge is at 156 Stoke Newington High St and is open Monday to Saturday 11am to 6.30 pm, Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm. There’s a free workshop this Sunday 17th September from 7 to 9 pm which will use origami and Japanese gift knots to make unusual gift wrapping Japanese style.