Over the years, I’ve learned the names of traditional bamboo basket weaves like kikko, ajiro, and mutsume, which are used by master bamboo weaver Takami Yasuhiro. When I visited Takami-san in Yufuin 5 years ago, he said that the kikko –which means turtle-shell- weave is the most difficult. I was mesmerized at the rhythmical swooping and holding of the strips as his wife, Ayako-san, demonstrated the kikko weave.
The translucent ajiro weave is an original of Takami-san’s that I also love. Ajiro means “in place of a fishing net” and it refers to woven pieces of wood or bamboo fiber traditionally used to capture fish. At first glance, the translucent ajiro looks like a plain weave, but when it’s seen from an angle, the rows of chevron patterns become visible.
The mutsume vertical basket in this collection of work is the largest basket that I’ve received from Takami-san since I started working with him in 2012. Mutsume means “hexagonal” and there are two additional splints running vertically through the hexagonal weave in this basket. When I see it, I’m reminded of what Takami-san’s son-in-law, who trained under him, told me a few years back. “People think large baskets are easy to make, like all you need is a longer splint,” he said. “But it’s not that simple. I don’t think my hands are weak, but as the basket gets bigger and taller, the splints become less flexible and impossible to bend. You need experience and extremely strong hands to make big baskets.”
These days when I see a beautiful basket, I follow its pattern with my eyes and imagine weaving the strips in my head for a few minutes. I quickly lose focus and become confused, but that never stops me from being amazed at these alluring patterns developed in pursuit of function and durability.
The pop-up will feature over 100 pieces of colorful ceramics by Sakai Mika, a Japanese Nerikomi ceramic artist based in Shizuoka prefecture. Nerikomi ceramics are made using colored clay that are stacked and cut to create slabs of different patterns.
Nerikomi Ceramics by Sakai Mika
Also for this event, Entoten has invited Hightide Store DTLA, a boutique stationery store that opened in Downtown LA in 2018. Hightide is headquartered in Fukuoka, Japan, and they are known for functional and high-quality original stationery lines.
Hightide Store DTLA
We are also happy to announce that there will be another special guest joining us for the event!
YAMMA Sangyo is a clothing brand established by designer Yamasaki Nana in 2008. By employing women -especially mothers and grandmothers- who are skilled and experienced in sewing clothing, Yamasaki sought to radically change the fashion industry standard of mass production that leads to enormous waste. The clothing by YAMMA Sangyo have long lasting designs and are made using natural fibers, mainly Aizu cotton, a traditionally woven cotton from Fukushima region that dates back over 400 years.
Clothing by YAMMA Sangyo
Please join us for craft, stationery, clothing, Japanese tea, and conversation.
We look forward to seeing you there!
It has been a while since I’ve introduced new work by the Nagoya based potter Inoue Shigeru. This is because his ceramics has been gaining popularity in Japan since we debuted him here in the US in 2018. This long wait is understandable though because Inoue-san’s work is truly unique, and a single and in-demand potter can only make so much. So I’m delighted that I am able to show new work by him that includes beautiful green ash glazes that he has been experimenting with.
Inoue-san is continuing to use rough and crumbly unprocessed clay that is extremely difficult to form. He applies natural slip and glazes that are mixed using feldspar exposed to the rain and sun. When I met him over 5 years ago, I was shocked to see how rough his hands were from working with this difficult clay and mixing the slip and glazes. But he is adamant about using these natural materials and methods because only they can create the desired depth and rusticity in the finished work.
He fires his pots in a gas kiln with minimal airflow, known as reduction firing, which deprives oxygen from the kiln. By doing so, he forces oxygen to be drawn out of the clay bodies and glazes. This firing method causes random pink shades to appear in the glaze, known as gohonte, that are much desired by pottery enthusiasts.
I think that the gohonte is even more visible in this recent batch of his work, which is perfect for the soon to arrive spring.
Deep, shallow, and in almost every conceivable size and form, Japanese food vessels are perhaps the most diverse in the world, and Iga potter Kojima Yosuke creates a staggering variety of them. His outstanding work that uniquely harmonizes with food and flowers has been selected by many boutique restaurant owner-chefs in Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo.
“I feel humbled that food professionals pick my work because I know that their job is extremely hard every day” says Kojima-san, who once aimed to become a chef himself by attending the Kyoto Culinary Institute.
Kojima-san makes his work in the historic pottery town of Iga, just a few miles east of another famous pottery town of Shigaraki. The two towns share an identical stretch of high-quality, chunky white clay deposit that once lay under the basin of lake Biwa, an ancient tectonic lake dating to at least 4 million years ago (the current version of the lake is located further north in Shiga prefecture).
The origins of Iga kilns can be traced back to the pots made for agricultural use around the 8th century, but its fame grew from the time of Tsutsui Sadatsugu (1562-1615), a daimyo of Iga-Ueno domain. Under Tsusui, and later under the Todo clan, the region produced ceramics with elaborately calculated effects of ash and fire for utensils used in the Way of Tea (chanoyu).
Iga became famous for flower vases and water jars that were fired multiple times in the wood-firing kiln. These rustic pots with warps, cracks, bumps, burns, and covered in some parts by clear green ash glaze were considered the epitome of austere wabi aesthetic, and were much sought after by tea practitioners of that era.
Perhaps it is because Kojima-san grew up steeped in this vigorous pottery tradition, after graduating culinary school in 1997, he became intensely interested in making bowls, plates and other containers for food and flowers. He changed course and learned pottery from his own father, Kojima Kenji, an Iga pottery heavyweight in Japan, famous for his dynamic and original style of wood-fired work. After the apprenticeship, the younger Kojima-san set up his own studio and kiln in 2003, a few minutes walk from his father’s studio, in Marubashira, Iga.
“My focus is on the unique effects on clay fired with wood,” Kojima-san says. Many of his pieces are fired multiple times in the wood kiln, and he fires his small wood-kiln at an astounding frequency of around 30 times a year.
The first time I met the younger Kojima-san was in 2019, when I rudely interrupted his firing by asking directions to visit his father. I was visiting Iga with a pottery tour group from the US. At the time, I was already in love with Kojima-san’s work– which I had discovered through a yakitori restaurant account in Osaka– and had been following him on Instagram for a while, but I didn’t know he was the son of Kojima Kenji.
In this batch of work by Kojima-san, I selected a wide variety of dishes so that you’ll be able to get an idea of his scope of work. I know that matched dishes are the norm at dining tables here in the US, but I hope that you will use this opportunity to explore the joy of plating, eating, and drinking with unmatched and uniquely shaped dishes by this remarkable Iga potter. I guarantee that these vessels will be an inspiring part of your meal.
GLASS SHOW with Naru <Inoue Naruhito>
September 3 & 4, 2022
11 am – 5 pm At The Den on Laurel Street
205 Laurel Street, #104
San Diego CA 92101
For more than two decades, Japanese glassblower Inoue Naruhito, known as Naru, has been fascinated by glass, the raw material of his work. “When I create work, I pay special attention to how light occurs in the work I make,” he says. “I think about how my work refracts and reflects light, and the unique lens effects.”
Naru’s work is sinuous and colorful, carrying unique meditative qualities, like an enchanting sea jelly bursting with life. “I want to make work that seems to have sprung out of the earth, or suggest a ripening fruit,” he explains. “Even though they’re manmade, I want to evoke the notion of natural objects that has existed on earth from the ancient past.”
Naru first became interested in glass while traveling alone in Morocco over 20 years ago. Seeing that he had brought a camera, a local friend asked him to document the “Festival of Sacrifice.” “When they brought out a sheep, I assumed that they were going to shear it,” he said. “I was so startled when they started slaughtering it. I wanted to cover my eyes, but somehow, I could maintain my calm through my camera lens.” It was this emboldening effect of seeing the world through glass that stuck with him.
After returning to Japan, Naru visited a local glass studio to learn more about glass. He also discovered that his name “Naru” means “fire” in Arabic. “I felt a sense of destiny because the shape of the glass is changed by melting it with fire,” he says. Eventually Naru signed up for his first glassblowing class at Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle, Washington. “I boldly signed up for their summer session with almost no experience,” he says. But this fearless act allowed him to build friendships with fellow artists at Pilchuck and drove him to seriously pursue the craft.
In 2002, Naru joined the Toyama Institute of Glass Art. After graduating from the institute, he continued to hone his skills by working for various glass artists until 2011.
Nature is the source of inspiration for Naru, and he is immersed in it in Taketa, where he set up his glass studio in 2015. A small country town of less than 20,000 people in Oita prefecture in Kyushu, Taketa is an ancient castle town famous for its soda hot springs and magnificent panoramic plateau on sediment from the Mount Aso volcano.
Like other small Japanese towns in the countryside, Taketa’s population is aging and shrinking. But what is special about this town is its unique program to promote settlement by young and motivated craft artisans through subsidies. “In 2012, I built my own studio in Yokohama, my hometown, but Taketa invited me, so I decided to move here with my family three years later,” Naru said.
Taketa attracted enough artisans over the years to be known as a town of crafts and beautiful nature among Japanese tourists. Naru’s well-established glass studio –called Magma Glass, in homage to the adjacent Mount Aso— is a great success story providing local employment and attracting craft tourism.
“After I arrived here, I wanted to create work using local materials,” Naru explains. “And because it is Taketa, I wanted to use bamboo.” “Taketa” literally means “bamboo fields.”
Through trial and error, Naru devised a method to cure bamboo to use as molds for glassblowing. Now, his main line of work is made using these bound bamboo molds that create beautiful soft curved lines. He named the series “Kaguya”, after the bamboo princess Kaguya, who was born from a segment of bamboo in the old Japanese folklore, “The Tale of The Bamboo Cutter” (竹取物語).
The other line of work that Naru passionately pursues include lamps and candle holders that he began making after the destructive earthquake in Japan in 2011. “Soon after the earthquake, there were widespread power outages and electricity conservation requests,” he recalls. He also added that since the pandemic, there has been renewed interest in lanterns in Japan. He says that it is probably because more people spent time outdoors or went camping, and they needed a reliable light source without electricity. “I thought that maybe it is also because fire is a source of comfort during this time of crisis.”
For the Labor Day weekend pop-up at the Den on Laurel Street, Naru will bring over 130 pieces of his work from Japan that will be shown in the U.S. for the first time. He will be at the Den throughout the two-day event. Join us to meet this prolific artist, who is also playing a big part in revitalizing a beautiful town in Kyushu through creativity.
We have exciting news San Diego and the World!
Mark your calendar for the Labor Day weekend when Entoten will welcome Japanese glassblower Inoue Naruhito from Taketa in Oita prefecture, Kyushu.
GLASS SHOW with Inoue Naruhito
September 3 & 4, 2022
11 am – 5 pm
At The Den on Laurel Street
205 Laurel Street, #104
San Diego CA 92101
The city of Taketa is famous for bamboo and, appropriately, Inoue-san casts his “Kaguya” glass series in cured bamboo molds. The series is named after the bamboo princess Kaguya, who was born from a segment of bamboo in the old Japanese folklore, “The Tale of The Bamboo Cutter (竹取物語).”
These stunning bamboo cast plates resemble huge morning glory blossoms. We look forward to sharing plenty of stunning glasswork by Inoue-san this September at The Den.
2022 marks the 10th anniversary of my small business. I was so excited to embark on this endeavor after waiting 8 years for a green card that finally allowed me to work in the US. For this anniversary year, I wanted to push myself to write more as I find the whole writing process difficult. So I was delighted when I found the perfect literary enkindler: the 72 microseasons of old Japan.
When Meiji Japan replaced its calendar in 1872 as it sought to modernize and catch up with the rest of the world, many of the seasons expressed in the traditional version were no longer used in the new Gregorian calendar. In the old lunar calendar called kyureki, the year was divided into four seasons with each season sub-divided into three mini-seasons called sekki. But the most curious aspect of the kyureki were ko or microseasons that further divided each sekki into three, making a grand total of 72 microseasons in a year.
The 72 microseasons are fascinating because they have names like “east wind melts the ice” and “barley ripens” that literally depict subtle but distinct phenomenon in the surrounding nature. They are a testament to our farming history and how our ancestors lived close to the land that they depended upon. These days most Japanese have never heard of these microseasons, but in the last decade there has been a renewed interest with numerous books and online content published on the topic.
These microseasons have had the profound effect of triggering my memories in unique and personal ways. From childhood, summer has been my favorite season of the year and since today, May 5th, marks the start of summer in the Japanese calendar, it is the perfect day to begin recounting them. I hope that you will find my stories interesting and in some way intersect with your own experiences because I feel that it is my lifework to create deeper connections by communicating delicate gradations and subtleties of thought that transcends culture and language.
My essays will be accompanied by the vivid calligraphy of the 72 microseasons by Chieko, the mother of a good friend, who is a contemporary Japanese calligrapher currently residing in Kanagawa prefecture. Chieko first put ink on paper more than 70 years ago and her talent was soon recognized by her teacher who encouraged her to pursue the art form. She later studied under Kumagai Tsuneko (1893-1989), a renowned contemporary calligrapher at Daito Bunka University, who also taught calligraphy to the Japanese Empress Michiko.
Chieko’s love is for kanamoji calligraphy, a graceful and unique writing style using Japanese alphabets that were developed during the Heian Period (794-1192). However, for this 72 microseasons project, I requested Chieko to write the seasons in Kanji using regular to semi-cursive script, so that they will be legible and entice many people, even beginners learning kanji, to engage.
In creating the 72 microseasons calligraphy, Chieko used three kinds of ink: chaboku (brown ink), seiboku (blue ink), and kuro (black ink), which are rubbed on wet stone to release the pigments. Each piece is created quickly and deliberately because calligraphy is an ephemeral art form with no opportunity to make changes later.
For Chieko, the brushes are extensions of her hand and her work expresses her heart. Her immense focus lets the brush move freely, creating work that powerfully provokes strong emotions.
Calligraphy, while intrinsically imbuing meaning, leaves space for the imagination of the viewer that actual landscape photos do not. It is not necessary to be able to read the characters. Instead, please enjoy the flow, contrast, composition, and grace of the strokes, just like you would enjoy a painting.
<The 72 microseasons essays from 2022 summer are currently being edited to be published in a different form in the future>