Where do bells come from? The Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Whitechapel Bell FoundryI used to work in Aldgate, not far from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry on Whitechapel Road, but I never gave much thought to what went on behind the wooden frontage of their Grade I listed building. I knew they made bells there, but I didn’t know how, and I didn’t realise they’d been doing it for four hundred years, making them the oldest recorded business in Britain. So going on a tour of the bell foundry was a real education. Continue reading

Colour and Patina – the Bronzes of Koji Hatakeyama

Koji HatakeyamaI’ve always though of bronze as, well, bronze-coloured. Not a colourful metal at all. But Koji Hatakeyama’s new exhibition at the Erskine Hall and Coe gallery has made me see bronze in a new light – or maybe a new set of colours.  Continue reading

Secret treasure – Japanese kiriko cut glass

Edo kirikoThis post came so close to being a blogging fail I go hot and cold just thinking about it. You’d think that, as experienced art bloggers, Yannick and I would be able to navigate our way around an exhibition without missing ninety percent of the exhibits, wouldn’t you? Well, last week, we came perilously close to doing just that.  Continue reading

Takumi Japan – skill, craft and the pursuit of perfection

Aluminium rings by Marushin Materal Co

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. Continue reading

Wagumi – Japanese designer wares at the Oxo Tower

Oxo Tower

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. Continue reading

South Bank Winter Festival

South Bank Winter FestivalIf I tell you I’ve been to the South Bank Winter Festival, I suppose you’ll expect pictures of roundabouts and santas and gluwein and chestnuts roasting on a open fire. And you’ll be right, there will be all that. But, this being the kind of blog it is, there’ll mainly be pictures from the Designer Makers Christmas Market which you can find tucked away under the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and another round of suggestions for Christmas presents with a Japanese flavour. Continue reading

Winter Fair at Clerkenwell Studios

Craft Central, Clerkenwell

It’s December so it’s officially okay to mention Christmas (and it’s snowing on my blog, did you notice?). I’ve just been to my first Christmas fair of the season (well, strictly speaking, it’s billed as a winter fair but they do suggest it would be a good place to buy your Christmas presents), Made in Clerkenwell at Craft Centre Studios. It’s on for four days and today is the last day so if you’re interested get down there this afternoon. Here’s a heads up on what you’ll find, focusing, as ever, on the Japanese designers in the show. Continue reading

Four Living National Treasures at The Fine Art Society

Jun Isezaki

This week is Asian Art Week in London, where over sixty of the world’s top dealers, major auction houses and museums put on shows of art from all over Asia. It runs from 31st October to 9th November, which I suppose makes it Asian Art Ten Days, but I can see why they don’t call it that – much less catchy. And one of the most exciting exhibitions for a Japanese art enthusiast is the Four Living National Treasures show at The Fine Art Society. What’s a Living National Treasure? I’ll explain. Continue reading

Japanese armour in Kensington

Usagi Juku armourI expect your idea of armour is the kind of solid, clanking metal suit you might find nowadays standing in the hall at a stately home. Effective, but heavy and unwieldy. Or maybe lighter, more flexible chain mail – a great step forward. But in Japan they went further. To enable samurai to ride, shoot arrows and use a sword, they developed a lightweight armour in which metal or leather scales were bound together with string. Doesn’t sound too effective? You’d be surprised. Continue reading

Origami and Mathematics

Kawasaki origamiIf your image of someone who does origami is a little Japanese girl making paper cranes, you’re way out of date. Alright, I confess, I was too, until I went to a talk and demonstration at the Japan Foundation by the world’s first Doctor of Origami, Toshikazu Kawasaki, and discovered that nowadays origami is a branch of geometry. Continue reading