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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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Tsutomu Masuda: The Coming of Summer

Maya Nakamura

Kamakura is probably my favorite city in Japan.  It is by the ocean and there are dozens of old Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines in this area.  It is a popular old-fashioned resort town with lovely little cafes and gallery shops everywhere.  If you ever come to Japan, please make sure to swing by. 

So I heard my beloved potter, Tsutomu Masuda, is having an exhibition in Kamakura to celebrate the coming of summer.  

via  vuori  

via vuori 

The exhibition was at the cafe/gallery called, Vuori, right off Hase station.  Super cute.

Vuori  1-15-1 Hase, Kamakura 248-0016, Kanagawa

Vuori  1-15-1 Hase, Kamakura 248-0016, Kanagawa

The first floor is the cafe and the second floor is the gallery space.  the first floor is so nice, but I was too excited to check out the exhibition, so I immediately walked up to the second floor when I got there with so much anticipation.   

And there, I could instantly spot Masuda chatting away with his fellow wood artist, Takashi Miyashita in the corner.  Photos were not allowed in the gallery unfortunately, so I'm borrowing the photos below from their website.  

 

Vuori 2nd floor gallery (via  vuori ) 

Vuori 2nd floor gallery (via vuori

By looking at his charming smile with flip up sunglasses and slightly messy grey hair, Masuda looked like such a lovely guy, and his pottery reflects his warm down-to-earth personality.  

I started to take plates and bowls shamelessly, and spread them out on the table to decide which ones I will take home.   By the way, this is what you normally do at any pottery shops in Japan.  You take the items you are interested in, and place them onto a "display table" so you can evaluate them and decide whether or not you will purchase them.   

So as I'm smiling at the plates and bowls that I selected, the sweet lady from the gallery insisted that she'd introduce me to Masuda.  Well twist. my. arm. 

I had such a pleasure talking to him about everything from his kiln to his love for jazz.  What I learned is that he was an art teacher.  He actually taught himself to make pottery using traditional methods like glazes, brushstrokes and powdered appearance.  He currently resides and make pottery in Tsukui, the far northwestern corner of Kanagawa prefecture, which is known for their artist community.  (It is like Hudson, NY in my mind)  

His pottery is simple and functional, he explained.  It is meant to be used everyday and easy to mix an match with your existing dinnerware and blends into all kinds of settings.    

 

These are particularly my favorite items from the exhibition. 

As I exited the gallery, I felt a breeze came from the ocean with a hint of summer fondly.   

It was a perfect Sunday afternoon.  

 

 

 

Eat with Eyes

Maya Nakamura

When the tablecloth disappeared from fine-dining restaurants, antiseptic white china went with it. Nowadays, meals from Noma in Copenhagen to Husk in Charleston are served on gorgeous handmade dishes—often thrown by a ceramist the chef knows as well as his butcher, farmer, or forager. And why not? It’s all part of that “artisanal” experience.
— Belle Cushing, bon appétit
Husk (via  10Best )

Husk (via 10Best)

Mouthwatering food photos have been flooding the social media for quite some time now. Snapping photos of your meal before you eat is completely common place everywhere from the fancy restaurants to your home.  Yes, it can be annoying sometimes for many different reasons, but it certainly proves that people eat with their eyes as much as their mouths. 

instagram @helenedujardin

instagram @helenedujardin

instagram @higucci

instagram @higucci

It's nothing new to the Japanese that the food presentation is of paramount importance, with great care given to detail, color, form and balance.  They have turned food presentation into a high art, creating a "feast for the eyes".  It is common in Japan that the food is created and arranged by the chef who carefully decides how to plate which food on which dish.  This is a respectful way to honor both the artisan who created the dish, and the guest who will appreciate not only the taste, but the aesthetic value.   

It is no accident that the Japanese make beautiful ceramics and lacquerware.   <humble brag> 

raised bowl by naoji tanii (via  sousou )

raised bowl by naoji tanii (via sousou)

small rhombus plate by shindo kobo (via usutwa gallery chidori)

small rhombus plate by shindo kobo (via usutwa gallery chidori)

Plate by Akio Nukaga via  Utsuwa Kaede

Plate by Akio Nukaga via Utsuwa Kaede

Nevermind what exactly is on each dish.  Whether it is a home cooked meal, delivered food, or just simple snacks and nibbles, thoughtful presentation leads to more enjoyable meal.  

instagram @decokei

instagram @decokei

instagram @irodorco

instagram @irodorco

instagram @edibleliving

instagram @edibleliving

So go ahead and throw your food onto your fancy plate even if it is just Chinese delivery.   Serving on a unique plate can make any food look nice and appetizing.

 

Plates and bowls available at b. benten shop: