Design in the Too-Much-Information Age

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TGS owner,  Taku Shinomoto, recently gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal for his work as lead designer for Hasami Porcelain.  A portion of the interview can be found in the WSJ article posted here, but for those interested in the full WSJ interview, we are posting it below – in both Japanese and English.

 

WSJ:  We’ve been hearing a lot from designers about the need for more tactile design – rougher finishes, sculpted rugs, less polished and gleaming surfaces – in response to the overabundance of tech screens in our lives. Can you comment on this?

近年のテクノロジーの進歩による日常生活における過剰なスクリーン(画面)上のやり取りの結果として、 デザイナーの多くからフィニッシュの粗さ、光沢や反射の少ない表面、形成されたラグ(?)など 触感を重視するデザインの必要性について聞かされる事が増えています。 この事についてコメントしていただけますか?

 

TS:  私も同感です。 テクノロジーが進化すればするほど、人々はその反動としてそのバランスを取るようにプリミティブな物に惹かれていくでしょう。僕が生まれた時代に人々が思い描いた全てがアップデートされたような未来は起こりませんでした。テクノロジーの進化は目覚ましいものですが、人自身の感覚はそのスピードと同じように進化する事は出来ませんでした。産業革命以後のアーツアンドクラフト運動、日本における民芸運動、現代はその時期と同じ事とを繰り返しています。特に食器に関しては驚くほど遠い昔から進化していません。製造工程の近代化や効率化はされているものの、基本的に土と火で作られている点は何千年前から変わっていませんし、それに代わる優れた素材の登場も有りませんでした。これから先、火と土から形成される焼き物はさらに注目されるでしょう。焼き物メーカーの人たちに私はこのように話しています。『アップルコンピューターが売り上げを伸ばせば伸ばす分だけ、あなたたちの業績も上がっていくでしょう』

I agree. As people react to evolving technology, they are becoming more attracted to primitive objects, to adjust the balance in a way. The future that was imagined by adults when I was born has not been completely updated in the current world. The evolution of technology is remarkable, but our human senses have not been able to keep up with the speed. Like the art and craft movement after the industrial revolution, the “mingei” movement in Japan in the 1920’s, we are repeating these movements in the present now. Tableware in particular has not evolved much since ancient times. Even though efficiency in the manufacturing process has somewhat improved, the use of soil and fire which are the two basic elements in pottery has not changed for several thousands of years, and there has not been any distinguished substitutes for those materials. Pottery made with soil and fire will likely attract more and more people in the future. I always speak to the pottery producers in Japan, “Your achievements will keep rising as long as Apple increases its revenue.”

 

WSJ:  We’re interested in the Hasami Porcelain you sell at the store.  Curious if you work with an old factory / heritage brand / in a special region / etc. to make the pieces.  How the process came about, etc.  How long you’ve been doing it.

店頭で売られているHasami Porcelainについて興味があります。製造過程で古い工場、歴史あるブランド、特別な地域などとは関わっていますか? どのような段階を経てこのデザインに至ったのでしょうか? どれぐらいの期間携わっていますか?

TS: 2010年からこのプロジェクトに関わっています。店の開業以来取引のある長崎県の波佐見という焼き物の産地から, 世界に通用する波佐見焼を作りたいという依頼からこのプロジェクトがスタートしました。波佐見は約400年の歴史がある焼き物の産地です。世界的に有名な有田の隣町なのですが、有田は高級な工芸品の焼き物産地として発展しました。その影で、波佐見は現代でいう使い捨ての器や使い捨ての酒ビン等を作ることで成り立ってきました。現代も安価で庶民的な焼き物の量産の産地です。その産地の磁器の量産性という特性を生かしつつ。画一的な質感と安物というイメージが有った磁器に土を混ぜることによって、磁器の丈夫さを保ちつつ、ユニークな質感や味を与えることができました。現代におけるスタンダードになれるような器を作ることを目指しました。和食にも洋食にもどの国の食事にも対応できるように形状や素材を考えています。デザインコンセプトに関してはカタログの説明文を参考にして下さい。

 

I have been involved with this project since 2010. I was asked to come up with a line of pottery for Hasami in the Nagasaki prefecture, a pottery region and local manufacturer that our store has been working with since our opening.  The project was all about creating something that could work globally.  Hasami has 400 years of history making pottery.  Arita, which is widely known for its ceramics worldwide is actually the village right next to Hasami, but Arita has developed a reputation as a higher-end, craft oriented pottery region. In contrast, factories in Hasami have been supporting themselves by manufacturing low cost, disposable tableware and sake bottles, and even today they still provide reasonable pottery in large quantities for daily use. I was able to achieve a unique texture or “taste” with Hasami products by combining Hasami’s ability to manufacture porcelain in large quantities and mixing soil with porcelain which was thought to be cheap. I aimed to develop a line that could be the modern standard for containers. The shape and material are designed to cope with Japanese, Western, and global cuisine. Please refer to the “CONCEPT” section of Hasami Porcelains website for the design concept:

http://www.hasami-porcelain.com/

 

WSJ: Part of our thesis is that Japanese design is particularly effective at conveying this sensibility.  We’re interested in people working with heritage brands and creating new product using their know-how, facilities, techniques, materials, etc.  Can you speak to this revival of (young) designers working with these brands?

我々が掲げるテーゼの一部として、日本のデザインは上記の様な感覚を伝えるのに特に効果的だという点が挙げられます。歴史あるブランドとノウハウ、施設、技術、素材などを共有する人物に関心があります。昨今の流れである(若い)デザイナーらがこのようなブランドと共同でものづくりをする事に関してどう思われますか?

TS: 良い傾向にあると思います。日本人特有の一過性の流行りのようになっている点は懸念があるのは事実ですが。物事は停滞してしまうことが一番のマイナス要因ではないでしょうか。伝統的な技術や産地がさまざまなデザインや新しいアイデアに取り組むことは、結果として良い案件悪い案件と有るかもしれませんが、技術や産地の活性につながると考えます。

 

I think it is good, although I do need to admit that I am a bit concerned that this movement has become a transitory trend, which is peculiar for Japanese people. The most negative element is to stagnate. Traditional technicians and regions working with various designs and new ideas will ultimately result in activating those techniques and the entire region, and of course there could be good and bad projects along the way.

 

 

WSJ: What are the benefits of feeling / touching / holding these products?  Do these natural materials and textures convey a special message that is lacking in cold metal / glass / plastic that we normally do? Does Japan do this better than anyone and, if so, how is it achieved materiality, technique, etc.

上記の様なプロダクトを触ったり、感じたり、実際に手に取ったりする事にはどういった利点がありますか?ナチュラルな質感をもつ素材は、冷たい鉄、ガラス、プラスチックなどとは違ったメッセージ性を持つのでしょうか?日本のプロダクトは他国のそれよりもそういったメッセージ性が強いのでしょうか?またその場合、それはどのようにして成し遂げられているのでしょうか?(素材、技術、ほか)

TS: どのような利点が有るかは明確にはわかりませんが、1の質問の回答のような事だと思います。僕は陶磁器に限らず、木やガラス、鉄、アルミニウム、ましてやプラスチックにもメッセージを感じます。それは素材からによるものではなく、均一では無い質感や時代を経ることによって生まれる質感があるものに対してなのだと思います。時間経過によってみすぼらしくなってしまうような物ではなく時間経過が味わいや個性になるものを作りたいし扱っていきたいと考えて日本人の価値観の根幹には神道の考えか方が宗教としてではなく生き方として染みついているように感じます。子供の頃から万物に神(魂)が宿っていることを教えられてきた気がします。もちろん神道の授業の時間など存在しません。私自身それが神道であることにも気づいていないと思うのです。モノづくりにもその存在が大きく影響を与えているのだと思います。素材、工具、全てもものに神(魂)を感じながら作り出されたもには、それが宿っているのだと思います。

 

Although I can’t clearly identify the benefits, I think it would be something similar to the answers for question #1. I personally feel messages in wood, glass, steel, aluminum, and even plastic. That is because the messages are not coming from the material itself, but from elapsed time and the unevenness of the texture. I am always trying to create and sell something that would not look shabby over time, but has an aging process that would become part of its own uniqueness and add more taste to it. I also feel that the root of the Japanese people’s sense of values are deeply dyed by the way of thinking from the Shinto shrine, as a way of living – not just religious lectures. We have been raised to believe that all things are sacred, and god (a soul) dwells inside everything. Of course, there are no Shinto classes or anything like that in school. Maybe even I do not completely recognize that that is Shinto. But the existence of that concept has a great impact on Japanese crafts. Material, tools, everything that has been made by feeling the god (soul) in the object contains that element.


Newsletter May issue published

Published on May 15, 2015.

Please click here to read the article.

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Kaneko Rice Planting Starts! Update from our TGS member

Last month we announced TGS member Sahori Kaneko’s return home to Aichi-ken, Japan to grow her family’s rice business. 

We are excited to learn that planting is underway and here is the photo evidence! Sahori is the one who is planting – gambare!  Thank you everyone who came to last month’s special rice tasting event in honor of Kaneko rice.  We will hopefully blog more updates in the future!

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Hal’s Is on the Move!

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Message from our owner:

Hal’s is the oldest restaurant on AK and Taku and I really enjoyed the atmosphere which you can see any generation and race there, not like a hip restaurant. Our visitors and artists from Japan have enjoyed their food and feeling there as well. It is sad to lose a good place where we have good memories and we just said good bye to a 15yr old neighbor restaurant, AXE in the end of last year. Well, let’s hope they can reopen still in Venice near us!! — Keiko Shinomoto


Newsletter April published

Published on Apr. 12, 2015.

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Kaneko Rice Tasting on April 25th, 11am -5pm!

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We are hosting a special event on Saturday, April 25th in honor of Sahori Kaneko and her family’s 300 year old rice fields in Aichi prefecture!

Sahori, merchandiser for TGS since 2013, is returning to her hometown of Aichi to join her family’s rice tradition and expand it into a small business.

The rice harvested on the Kaneko farm is called mineasahi – a rice that can only be grown in Aichi, and compared to other rice varieties, is sweeter (‘amami’) and with a superior texture and consistency (‘nebari’).

“Kaneko rice is delicious because we grow our rice with water from the nearby mountains (‘yama mizu’).  Other rice fields will use water from the city, or from rivers, and we take our water from a very pure source.”

Sahori, whose background is in interior design and her sister, who works as an aroma therapist in Japan, intend on creating a business that will focus on wellness as much as rice.  Their future plans involve a cafe with a menu using Kaneko rice as well as a spa where people can enjoy the surrounding natural beauty while receiving treatments.

At this Kaneko rice event we will be tasting both white and brown rice balls in soy sauce and miso flavors and giving away samples while supplies last.  The miso will also be from Aichi – a richer and deeper tasting miso than other you may have tried in the past!

“Living in America the last two years helped me see the beauty of Japan in a way I hadn’t before.  I am taking what I learned at Tortoise to create something sophisticated and modern with rice, and to show people the value of agriculture.  Not only people visiting Aichi prefecture, but for the people living in our own community as well.” 

Please come see us April 25th for this very special pop-up event, and to say goodbye to Sahori!

 

Aichi frog enjoying the rice field:

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The surrounding mountains are the main water source for all Kaneko Rice fields:

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Rice planting season starts on May 1st.  Sahori will return home on April 30th, and start planting the very next day with her family.  Gambare!

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Tortoise General Store is Flying with Delta!

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We had a customer from Australia the other day visit our store and tell us they saw TGS on his flight to Los Angeles!  Delta Sky has featured the Tortoise General Store in their ‘LA Stories’ Issue as 1 of the 5 things you should try while in Venice and we are happy to represent Venice and LA to our friends from around the world!  We have customers from many countries and cities visiting us every day and we are grateful to have our store featured in this well curated and informative issue.  Thank you to our new guest from Australia for telling us about this issue.  We hope you see lots of Los Angeles during your first trip here!

Please read the full issue here!


Newsletter March published

Published on Mar 6, 2015.

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Newsletter February published

Published on Feb 11, 2015.

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Newsletter January published

Published on Jan 14, 2015.

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Newsletter December Vol.2 published

Published on Dec.17, 2014.

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Newsletter December published

Published on Dec.05, 2014.

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Business Hours During December 2014

We are now officially open on Mondays during December!
Store hours :
11:30 – 19:00 (Mon through Sat)
11:30 – 18:30 (Sun)

* Closed on December 25th

* Closed earlier on December 31st

We have lots of great gift ideas, please visit us!

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Newsletter November Issue

Published on Nov.04, 2014.

Please click here to read the article.

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Ryosuke Yazaki Reception Party

This past Thursday was our reception party for Ryosuke Yazaki’s ‘KUUKAN’.  Thank you to  all who came and enjoyed the evening with us.  The exhibition will be at Tortoise until October 19th.

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Masanobu Ando Opening Reception

Last night was our opening reception for Masanobu Ando’s month long exhibition, “Circle of the Round”. Thank you everyone who came!

In Japan, Masanobu Ando is considered a ‘grand master’ of tea ceremonies and to our delight, Ando-san himself performed a very special tea ceremony for our reception guests.  The cups and tea whisk stand used in the ceremony were made by the artist — just for this occasion.

The exhibition will be from now until September 28th in the Tortoise building behind TGS.  Please come by and see these original and unique works!

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As the reception came to a close, Tortoise and TGS owners were able to enjoy some tea together. Otsukaresamadesu!

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Black Barc’s Pop-Up Store 8/29 – 9/7

bb2015-43 bb2015-44 bb2015-45Starting this Friday, August 29th, Black Barc Jewelry will bring fresh new items to TGS for a limited time.  Event will last for 10 days and end on September 7th.

kiribameandmokumegane processBlack Barc, founded by Mizuki Tsurutaka, relies on traditional Japanese techniques like Kiribame and Mokumegane to create long lasting, beautiful jewelry.

Kiribame is a Japanese ‘patchwork’ technique that has origins in the Edo period, and Mokumegane is a technique that uses heat and pressure together to fuse different metals – creating a unique and organic pattern in the process.   You will often see this Mokumegane technique on the elegant, decorative handles of Japanese swords.

We are so happy to have Black Barc popping into Tortoise –please stop by the store while they’re still here!

 

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TGS Goes Back to School!

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Summer is quickly winding down and the Tortoise General Store is going back to school again.

Here are some items we think can help start your school year right:

1) Prospective Flow Denim Bag: We love that this tote is the perfect size for laptops and notebooks.  More durable and stylish than a canvas bag, and lighter than leather.  This is the bag to wear. ($98)

2) ‘Le Pen’ Pens: It’s our most popular pen! LePen has a smooth writing micro-fine plastic point and a sleek barrel design. The ink is acid free and non-toxic, and available in 18 fun colors. Good for notebooks, diaries, memo pads, letters, journals, yearbooks, scrapbooks… you get the idea! ($1.75/each)

3) Postalco Notepads: Postalco notepads will win you over with their attention to detail.  Their protected spiral binding, colorful water resistant fabric covers, and an ingenious design that allows your palm to rest as you write — it’s almost too cool for school.  Notepads come in 3 sizes and 4 different colors: light blue (pictured), red, yellow and navy.  (S:$13 M:$19 L:$29)

4) Misuzudo Notebooks: Misuzudo notebooks are renowned for their unparalleled binding techniques.  These notebooks lay completely flat when opened and their pages can be torn out with a clean edge.  Completely handmade.  Great for young artists or for note taking in class.  ($36)

5) Craft Design Technology Frixon Ball 3 Pen: This brand really lives up to its name.  Combining ‘craft’, ‘design’, and ‘technology’, we love CDT pens for their functional and stylish design.  This is a .5 mm multi-functional pen with 3 refilliable colors (black, red, and navy).   Called the ‘frixon’ pen because the ink is erasable when you rub it with the pen’s eraser top – we think it’s better than any other erasable pen you can find. ($28)

6) Gekkoso Leather Pen Case: A simple pen case made of very high quality vegetable-tanned leather.  Perfect size for holding ‘8B’ pencils, or your Le Pens! ($68)

7) Casio CA53W Calculator Watch:  Casio is a classic.  We love this Casio watch because it has an 8 digit calculator, an auto-calender, stop watch, alarm clock, and dual time function all in one.  Also water resistant so if you want to hit the beach after class, you’re in the clear. ($26)

8) Aizawa Bento Box: Aizawa is a Japanese company famous for making high quality stainless steel products since 1922.  These stainless steel bento boxes will last for a really long time and won’t rust with moisture.  Comes with a clip-on lid and removable divider inside. ($60)

9) Snow Peak Titanium Cookware Set: Not a fan of plastic?  Try this ultra-lightweight fork, knife and spoon set in a velcro case from Snow Peak.  Snow Peak is a well known Camping line so you can also get this for your next vacation outdoors. ($34.95)

10) Teniugis: If you pack a lunch, don’t forget to wrap up your lunch in a bright, colorful tengui!  These 100% cotton towels are quick to dry and we think their functions are almost limitless.  Use them as a table napkin or as a head band at the gym or to clean your glasses. They’re beautiful and handy! ($13/each)

11) Gekkoso Right Hand Clip: Gekkoso is a renowned art supply and stationary store in Japan since 1917.   Slide your homework or class notes in between the iron thumb and fingers, or just appreciate the beauty of this clip on your desk. ($8)

 

Some of these items are not on our online store so don’t hesitate to call us with any questions, (310) 314-8448, or please come by and visit us at the Tortoise General Store, 1208 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice CA 90291.


TORTOISE will host Masanobu Ando Exhibition in September

Masanobu Ando’s work has a rustic simplicity and elegant serenity that is described in Japanese as ‘wabi sabi.’  Living in Tajimi, Japan – in Gifu prefecture – Ando creates ceramics pieces that are atypical of traditional ceramic ware. Known for rejecting the use of the wheel, Ando practices a technique called tatara, where sheets of clay are molded together to form a solid shape.  His glazing technique also creates a surface and appearance that mimics silver and metal instead of clay, and some of his sculptural pieces look like rusted pipes or sheets of steel.

We are happy to announce that Tortoise, the store and gallery behind the Tortoise General Store on Abbot Kinney, will host Masanobu Ando in a month long exhibition starting this September.   A special reception will be held on September 7th with Masanobu Ando himself flying in from Japan to attend.  The reception is welcome to anyone who wishes to meet the artist behind these truly original works.  Details for the reception and the exhibition will be sent out in the next TGS newsletter so please stay tuned!

 

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Masanobu Ando ($1200)

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Hanging Flower Vase – Masanoby Ando ($600)

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Masanobu Ando ($1600)

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Cups – Masanobu Ando ($68/each)

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From front to back: Vase ($600) Sculpture ($800) Sculpture ($1000) – Masanobu Ando


We are close on Jan 6th and 7th.

Happy new year 2014!

We are close on next Monday 1/6 and Tuesday 1/7 for waxing the floor and major cleaning called “Oosouji”.
We apologize for this inconvenience and thank you for your cooperation.