When it comes to the art of minimalist living, nobody does it as well as the Japanese. They are known for their style that revolves around clean and uncluttered living reminiscent of Zen philosophy, with simple yet meticulous designs.
“Japanese design has a certain depth to it, with a lot of layers. Although the design is very simple, there is a story behind every piece,” says Yusuke Shibata, CEO and founder of HULS Asia Pacific, a design company that focuses on Japanese crafts. Shibata was recently in town for the Artisan – Beyond Craft exhibition, which took place during the recently concluded Singapore Design Week.
According to Shibata and HULS’ interior designer Lim Choon Yeow, Japanese design is highly influenced by nature — which adds a dash of tranquility when brought into home interiors. “Japan is always changing, resulting in a certain fragility in its environment. This makes Japanese craft makers very in-tune with nature,” Lim explains. “It’s very easy to assimilate the Japanese aesthetic into the modern home. You can mix it with Scandinavian interiors, for example, and still get beautiful and seamless results.”
From textile makers to pioneers of lacquer-painted glass, here are 5 Japanese craft makers you need to know, for the next time you redecorate your home.
Japanese label SHIMA-SHIMA creates textiles adorned with a three-dimensional gradation of vertical stripes, which are woven in the style of Kokura-ori — a traditional cloth developed in the 17th century in southern Japan and used as the obi belt for kimonos. The brand recently collaborated with HULS to come up with “Brilliance of Heritage”, a Peranakan-inspired striped textile embellished with delicate floral motifs.
Established in Yoshida in the Ureshino city of Saga prefecture in 1953, Soekyu Seitosho is one of 14 pottery businesses that pioneered the production of a type of ceramic called “Hizen-Yoshida ware”. The third-generation potters, Hisahiro Soejima and his wife Michiko specialise in tableware fashioned in a specially-created pigment that produces five eye-catching shades of blue. Get their products to dress up the dinner table for your next home soirée.
For beautiful and unique pottery, check out DAIKURA, created by potter Hidetoshi Ogawa and his son Kouzou. Since 1972, the Ozawa family has maintained its tradition of making stoneware by hand, using good quality clay from the Bizen area. Its repertoire includes bowls, tumblers and flasks.
Founded in 1945 in the Kiso area of Nagano prefecture, Maruyoshi Kosaka is regarded as the pioneer of urushi-glass (lacquer-painted glass). The brand has revolutionised Japanese lacquerware by coming up with tableware inspired by the kaleidoscope. Its products are decorated with intricate hand-painted lines and vibrant hues, perfect for adding pops of colour to a minimalist home.
Riso Porcelain was established in the Arita area of the Saga prefecture in 1957, but is now helmed by Shinji Terauchi, the fourth-generation heir of the manufacturer. Terauchi studied Sometsuke — a technique that entails painting white porcelain with indigo patterns — and created his own technique to produce beautifully crafted cups, plates and bowls. There’s also a range of blue and white tableware.