Gifts Today magazine

Reiko Kaneko launches Japan store

Known for her innovative ceramic tableware forms, British-Japanese designer Reiko Kaneko debuts an online platform dedicated to beautiful crafts from Japan

Pursuing her own personal interest in Japanese crafts and ceramics in particular Reiko Kaneko has begun to curate a small collection of traditional Japanese crafts for sale on her website. The ceramics in her first collection are sourced from Mashiko, North of Tokyo where there is a long tradition of ceramic craftsmanship. Makers in the area have been creating simple functional ceramics for generations, and the objects carry a honest beauty in their utilitarian nature. Many of the pieces are formed from a rough earthenware body, in striking contrast to many of Reiko’s own fine bone china designs. However this contrast is part of what attracted Reiko who is a firm believer in the daily use of mixed ceramic tableware as is traditional in Japan.

The Japan Store is also a way for Reiko to highlight the craftsmanship behind small batch production. The opportunity to work more closely with the people directly involved in production was part of the reason for moving her business to Stoke-on-Trent. These anonymous makers still do much of the skilled work involved in manufacturing by hand, at odds with the publics mechanised view of manufacturing. Extending this philosophy to Japanese companies Reiko has also formed relationships with a number of companies and sole makers outside of ceramics. Be it in the Grass Brooms still made using traditional techniques in Gunma prefecture or hand turned Japanese Maple Plates sourced from Reiko’s own prefecture of Fukishima. This forms part of a wider desire for Reiko to establish her brand as a destination for handmade quality Japanese craft and design. Introducing more of her largely western audience to the design bounty Japan has to offer.

As part of this new offering at ~Reiko Kaneok’s new store in Japan, she has worked closely with the prestigious Japanese company Shotoku Glass. Renowned for their super thin, yet deceptively strong hand blown glass Reiko has worked with Shotoku to develop a bespoke Beer Glass design. In the design Reiko took inspiration from the glass blowing process after visiting their factory in Tokyo earlier in the year. Aiming to utilise this Japanese craftsmanship to create an elegant beer glass specific for the English market, the glass is just the right size to hold one bottle of beer. The subtle ripple on the exterior of the glass also conveniently shows a 50 ml double measure, allowing combinations of this very Japanese craft with classic English drinks like G&T. For Reiko, the highest praise for the design came from the factory floor, with some of Shotoku’s glass blowers among her first customers.

This kind of close collaboration with Japanese companies, and craftsmen is something Reiko hopes to pursue further. Forming collections and collaborations with Japanese makers, championing their ethos creating parallels with the work she has done with makers in Stoke-on- Trent with her own ceramic lines.
Products in the First Japan Store Collection include:

Shotoku Glass Beer Glasses (pictured)
Handcrafted glasses by Shotoku Glass for hand crafted beers, the glass is designed to hold a whole bottle of craft beer. Reiko likes The Kernel pale ale from London.

On a trip to Japan earlier in the year Reiko visited the renowned potteries in the town of Mashiko and we couldn't resist choosing a small selection of their humble, utilitarian ceramics to show on the website. Made by numerous unknown craftsmen the ego and aesthetic desires of the maker are removed by the repetition of their task - the simplicity and utility of the resulting forms becomes its own kind of beauty.

Mashiko Pestle and Mortars

These small pouring bowls have a soft lip which can function as a handle as well as making them ideal for serving vessels.

Alumite Kettles
A traditional staple in most Japanese homes, these classically designed silvery-gold kettles catch the light beautifully in any setting.

Japanese Maple Plates and Bowls
Turned by hand in Reiko’s own home prefecture of Fukushima, these beautiful solid maple plates and bowls are of special importance among this first hand picked selection of Japanese crafts. Made from locally sourced maple trees, subtle variations in their grain make each plate unique.

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