While I’ve got the children out of school for half-term, my blogging buddy Fran Pickering has kindly offered to take over this Wednesday’s home and design post. Her enthusiasm for Japan and its culture is wonderful! Enjoy!
I developed an abiding love of Japanese ceramics when I was working in Tokyo. There’s something peaceful and calm about them, and I love the concept of wabi-sabi – honouring artistry even when the materials aren’t valuable and relishing the patina that age brings.
There are still many traditional potteries in Japan where the local clay gives the pots a unique character, and where the kilns have been in operation for hundreds of years, passed down within families as son follows father. One example is the Mashiko area, where the kilns suffered badly in the Tohoku Earthquake but where they are now rebuilding and restocking. Mashiko is best known for its association with Bernard Leach, friend of Mashiko potter Shoji Hamada, who co-founded the Mingei folk craft movement.
Now I’m back living in London I still seek out places which stock Japanese pottery. Real Japanese ceramics are hard to find (and affordable ones even harder) but I’ve come across a few specialist shops. They tend to be hidden in places you wouldn’t think to look, so unless you came across them by chance you’d never know they were there. Here’s a few that I’ve found.
If you’ve visited the South Bank and headed from the National Theatre down to the Tate Modern along the river path, you’ve probably walked past the Oxo Tower, that art deco column where the windows spell out OXO. Next time you’re there, don’t walk straight past. Take the stairway to the first floor and visit Wagumi, a tiny but beautiful Japanese lifestyle shop. There you’ll find ceramics and other craft objects by, among others, the Rin Crossing and Takumi collectives – groups of Japanese craft studios that are starting to make their work available in the UK.
The ‘wa’ in Wagumi stands for peace and harmony, and the peaceful shop looking out over the ever-changing Thames is an oasis of beauty and style. Besides a lovely selection of ceramics they stock glassware, kitchen implements and shopping bags.
My next recommendation takes you to fashionable Shoreditch in East London, and to a bike shop called tokyobike. They sell beautiful bikes but they are also home to a shop within a shop by Momosan who regularly visits Japan to select wonderful pots for her calm and elegant displays. She has a good selection of Mashiko pottery (not always on display so do ask about seeing more) as well as other makers and some quirky ideas – like colourful spinning tops.
Finally, for the times when you just want something basic to use everyday, try the Japan Centre on Shaftesbury Avenue. It’s a great Japanese supermarket, the best place in London to buy Japanese food and ingredients. You take a very shiny escalator to the first floor for the food but before you go in, look for a stall selling pretty and inexpensive sake and tea sets. It’s next to the Taiyaki (waffles baked in the shape of a fish) bakery.
Then pop up the escalator to the supermarket and buy some sake to go with your sake set!
Wagumi is at Unit1.08 Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, SE1 9PH. Opening hours are Tuesday – Sunday 11.00 am to 6.00 pm, Closed Mondays
Tokyobike is at 87-89 Tabernacle Street, EC2A 4BA. Opening hours are Tuesday – Friday 11am to 7pm, Saturday & Sunday 11am to 5pm, Closed Mondays
Japan Centre is at 19 Shaftesbury Avenue W1D 7ED UK. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday 10 am to 9 pm, Sunday 11am to 7 pm.
About my guest blogger, Fran Pickering:
Fran’s new book The Cherry Blossom Murder, a murder mystery set in Japan is out now in Kindle and paperback. Buy it on Amazon (I’m taking it with me for apres-ski reading by the fireplace!). She blogs about Japanese art and events in London at Sequins and Cherry Blossom.