The 4% iron mix is important. When fired, the clay piece will take on a gorgeous black and gold color, becoming a suitably striking plate upon which to serve sushi or other delicacies. Nearby is another of the artist’s works, a bowl with a similar mixture of clay and copper. This one changed color to a mellow light green when it was fired.
Clay artist and potter Kei Kawachi shows me several of his other pieces. The glossy ones are fired and glazed, he explains. The others pieces are matted, suitable for everyday dishware. In fact, that’s how he uses it; he shows me pictures of plates he has made, laden with his wife’s cooking. Beautiful and practical, as can only be expected from the man whose mugs have been declared “superior tools for everyday living” by the Foundation of Craft Centre Japan.
Nearby, yuzen artist Itsuko Kasahara’s creations are on display. Yuzen is the art of dyeing designs into kimonos, but she is not showing kimonos today. Rather, the bolts of cloth are delicately inked with traditional designs, as yuzen artists have done for centuries. Kasahara prefers flowers and other pastoral scenery, but does not limit herself to them–one of her other major pieces depicts scenes from The Tale of Genji, a Japanese folk tale.
Yuzen and pottery are just a few of the many things that are promoted by Wa Space. Since their opening in 2012, they have hosted events ranging from sumi-e (ink wash paintings) and DIY/recycle artists at their space in Akasaka, to bazaars at the Tokyo American Club. Wa Space’s staff has traveled all over Japan, searching for traditional craftsmen in order to feature their unique creations at their gallery. “It’s all about developing relationships,” says Matthew Ketchum, the Wa Space’s PR representative. “Most of these craftsmen don’t want to work with you if they don’t know you. So we go out into the rest of the country and meet people, make friends, and hopefully they’ll introduce us to other artists.”
Although they do sell decorative items, most of the pieces available from the Wa Space are of a practical nature. “Modern simplicity that can be readily integrated into your life,” is their motto, and it is reflected in their product selection. Matthew shows me a number of designs, ranging from the simple practicality of a clay sake set to intricately ground and layered kiriko drinking glasses. A nearby section features hand-dyed noren from Studio Garaya of Tochigi prefecture; a glance in the other direction reveals the soft glow of the chochin lanterns from Suzumo, far from their origins in Mito City in the Ibaraki prefecture.
But adhering to principles of modesty and simplicity doesn’t mean that the present and future are ignored in favor of the past. Another display contains the works of an artist who makes decorative cases for iPhones and iPads, and yet another shows travel coffee mugs designed for our on-the-go modern lifestyle. The inclusion of these modern pieces may give an observer pause, but it fits Wa Space’s philosophy of understated beauty matched with practical use. If you use an object in your daily life, shouldn’t it be elegant as well as functional?
In a time of big city lights and electronic distractions, the Wa Space finds a place for those objects whose refinement allows them to fit in any era. Whether you are looking for graceful decorative art for your home or for an elegantly functional souvenir of your trip, the Wa Space can help. And even after you return home, you can look back at their website, and see who they have met since you left. Wabi Sabi style is a bottomless pool—much beauty remains to be created and be discovered. And if it comes from Japan, you can be sure that the Wa Space will eventually find it.
Wa Space Location Information
“Why Go?”: Traditional gifts and home furnishings created by Japanese craftsmen!
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