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b. benten is the online shop for high quality handmade ceramics and houseware items from Japan rooted in tradition for everyday use. Our mission is to introduce Japan's master artisans to the world by offering their limited work and covering fascinating stories of craftsmanship.


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Filtering by Tag: artisan

Harmonize Iron with Nature

Maya Nakamura

I recently discovered and fell in love with the iron tableware by Motomu Oyama.  His tableware collection got the perfect balance of the rustic elegance of Wabi-Sabi and modern industrial style.     

Here is a quick background of Motomu. 

Graduated from an art school in Tokyo (Setsu Mode Seminar), he was a graphic designer for a clothing line first, and did various illustrations for CD covers, posters and ads.  His obsession with iron started when he did a project involving 3D metal work.  He was so mesmerized by the beauty of iron and what he can express with it that he has not been able to stop working with iron ever since.  He produced a several building signs for famous music venues and art gallery spaces including Fujita Vente.  Don't worry, I have no idea what Fujita Vante is either.  You just kind of get the idea that he was heavily involved with the Tokyo art scene and built an impressive portfolio.  

So Motomu was based in Tokyo until 10 years ago, but he decided to move his studio to his hometown in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Kumage, which is on the southwest side of main Honshu island.  It is far far away from Tokyo...   

Many people get sick of fast-paced, expensive city style, as you get mature and established.  I'd assume the same happen to him.   

So i think he made the right move.  Now he is in the middle of nowhere.  And his works were starting to get inspired by the lush nature surrounding his studio.  

He currently has 2 themes of metal work called "Object Work Hobo" and "26".  

"Object Work Hobo" focuses on the subject that contribute to nature and living creatures like trees and butterflies.  

butterfly wall hooks

birdnest wall lamp (from Motomu's FB pg)

birdnest wall lamp (from Motomu's FB pg)

"26" is the other collection for minimal and abstract objects.  For those who didn't do well in chemistry (including myself), 26 is the atomic number of iron.   

compote dish

compote dish

candle holder

candle holder

bud vase

bud vase

When you think of iron, you think of something heavy, hard, cold like factory and pipes.  But his iron looks soft, elegant and just simply beautiful, and it is because they are inspired by nature.  Living in the wild allows him to create metal pieces connected to nature.   

Motomu's work continues to evolve, as he experiments with the material for a deeper understanding of the properties of iron.   He says since the way iron rusts, melts, bends will never change, so he needs to have a flexible mind to change his perception for the material, in order to achieve what he envisions.   

At b. benten online shop, a very few works of Motomu are available:  

The plates are called Tsuki-utsushi (the literal translation is Moon Projection) and come in 3 different sizes.  SHOP

Whether you simply serve tea or coffee on it...  hold jewelries or candles... or casually throw it on top of your ottoman as an accent piece...  it will make a subtle yet bold statement of nature in your home.  

source:  @rihpark

source: @rihpark

So how would you harmonize your iron items with nature?    


Up Your Coffee Game

Maya Nakamura

I just returned from India.  It. was. mind. blowing.  I highly recommend anyone to go check out India if you consider yourself brave and adventurous.  You will get to roam around Ashrams and temples in barefoot, rediscovering the meaning of silence.   It is such a Julia Roberts moment of Eat Pray and Love.  

While I was thoroughly enjoying my spiritual moments in India, my traveling partner was on a mission to find Starbucks towards the end of the trip.   Even though Starbucks exist In South India, it is mainly for tourists and the locals enjoy their filter coffee and masala chai, which I'd much prefer.  Starbucks.  please.   I think she needed a taste of civilization. 

masala chai spices

masala chai spices

Coffee lovers are everywhere in the world, and they always seem to have their favorite beans, equipment/accessories, and brewing methods.  Some say McDonald's got great coffee.  Some swear by the coffee picked out of animal's poop (I believe it is called civet or Kopi Luwak).  No judgement.  We all have preference, yes?

But what I have noticed is that people are much more serious about their coffee these days.    

People here in Japan take their coffee very very serious..  Not to mention Hario and Kalita, people are not kidding around with their coffee equipment.  

So I thought I would introduce my favorite coffee items today.  

Coffee scoop by Mitsuhiro Konishi  $60  

Coffee scoop by Mitsuhiro Konishi  $60

Ceramic Coffee Pot + Dripper Set by Takeshi Omura (MADE TO ORDER)

Ceramic Coffee Pot + Dripper Set by Takeshi Omura

Metal coffee dripper by Dai Inagaki  $200 (MADE TO ORDER)

Metal coffee dripper by Dai Inagaki  $200

I am not much of a coffee coffee person actually, yet I am drawn to these beautiful coffee items.  

So how strong is YOUR coffee brewing game? 


Akio Nukaga: The Master of Kasama

Maya Nakamura

If you are into contemporary ceramics, you most likely know who Akio Nukaga is.  His signature line, “pleated work”, is rustic and modern, simple and beautiful, tactile and practical.  It is nearly impossible to find his pottery online because they get sold out instantly, so I was super excited to find his exhibitions and get my hands on his work.  This goes for any popular potters in Japan by the way.  

So the word on the street was that he is holding a tiny solo exhibition at Starnet Tokyo over the weekend.  No way I was going to miss this opportunity.    

Starnet Tokyo is the branch of the housewares shop in Mashiko town, which is next to Kasama town where Nukaga's kiln is.  As a side note, Kasama town is known for pottery from the late 18th century, and it has been developed as one of the leading pottery in the country.

So...  the minute I walked into the Starnet Tokyo, I was nothing but a kid in the candy shop.   Bowls and cups were spread out on the table casually, so I started to hold his work in my hand, and fell in love with each one of them.  

So who is Akio Nukaga?   Here is a quick break down -  After graduating from college (textile design major), he was working as a carpenter. During this time, he became aware of the joy of craftsmanship, and when his friend introduced him to the world of pottery, he loved it so much that he decided to become a trainee at Ceramics Technology Office in Kasama town. He then continued to study at Kozan kiln in the same town, and became an independent potter when he opened his own studio in the early 90s.  

The rest was history.  He won many prestigious craft awards in Japan, and soon became ‘the master of traditional craft’ of Kasama ware.   

While he was a trainee, he entirely focused on improving his technical skills and did not pay attention too much on his artistic sense. I say it's probably because he already had a great artistic sense to begin with, but he says the creativity and personality will shine through your work naturally, and it is up to the end users to decide whether or not they appreciate your work.  

He also believes that his works are meant for everyday use even if it means them getting chipped or worn out.  In Japan, there is an appreciation for how appearance of natural materials change with time and use.  I absolutely love this mentality...  

So there will be another exhibition at Starnet next week, but at main shop in Mashiko city.   As of now, I'm just sincerely happy to just stare at the items that I brought home with me.  Yes I will make sure that they are available for you, too.  

sneak peak

sneak peak

For the mean time, check out his masterful techniques of pottery making: 

Akio Nukaga doing a wheel throwing demo.

Yup - he's the man.