We were ushered in quickly, asked to change into slippers, and shown into a room to wait. Garo and I sat at a Western style table in the center of the room. we took two chairs on the right side and left the two chairs across us empty. Once we settled a bit, I took a good look around. All along the walls were wooden display cases with glass tops. Inside them were different types of antique Western china. Above them were framed paintings and drawings all by Shinzi Katoh. The art work was modern or more traditional. nothing was done in the Katoh style we are familiar with. Everything in the room showed that there are many more sides to this designer than we know.
About five minutes must have gone by, but it felt like an eternity. Finally, the door opened and a young lady walked in. This was Yumi san with whom I'd been talking to via email. She came in with binders and papers and folders and once she sat down, the table was half covered with paper. About fifteen minutes later the door opened and Katoh san himself came in.
Shinzi Katoh is a petit but strongly built man. His black hair was tied back into a pony tail and he was dressed in black. We bowed and said the traditional Japanese greetings. He them broke out into a huge smile, shook our hands, and said "Welcome." That first gesture of warmth set the tone for the entire meeting. He was full of smiles, ideas, energy, and kindness.
We saw many things that are yet to be released and some new characters he's just designed. His staff brought in prototypes for us to comment on and took notes on our suggestions...what an honor!! We got a sneak peak of Christmas 2009 and received samples for our site.
Five hours later and after having seen too many goodies to make mention of, the meeting was over. We all parted having made new friends - something much more precious than business partners. But have no fear, the Shinzi Katoh cards and stationary will be plentiful on our site in this coming year!
Standing behind Shinzi Katoh with
a table full of wonderful stuff!
The skies are bright and clear on this first day of our trip to Japan. We're on the first leg of a three stop journey to Aichi. Aichi is not a large or well known city, but it holds one very special treat for us - the office and studio of Zakka designer Shinzi Katoh. We're scheduled to meet him and some English speaking staff at 2pm.
The further out we have travelled from Kyoto the more rural the landscape has become. I've seen straw thatched roofs and small thickets of forests pass by. This time we're not taking the Shinkansen, Japanese bullet trains, so I can really take in the scenery. In a large empty field sits a square building with the words "Space by Designing" written on it. I wonder what they work on there? Certainly there is no lack of space for designing with such a location!
Leg two of the journey has been on
a quaint older train. Who doesn't love
Finally, we arrive at the Shinzi Katoh office. But let me rephrase, this is not a typical office. After giving the taxi driver our destination, we watch as he takes us deeper and deeper up a beautiful, residential hill. We stop at a very cute house with two bright blue doors and ivy growing thickly all around. This sign greets us at the front gate.
Creative Studios. Pumpkin Museum.
The taxi driver zooms off and as we wait for the front door to open, we are a bit confused by the location and a lot excited! Here goes nothing...
I was walking accross a bridge next to our house yesterday and right at the midpoint I came across this stencil on the cement, "Just kiss her."
It was placed at the most perfect moment on the walk across the bridge - just at the top or it was just at the start of the decent. A beautiful spot for a kiss, a break, a place for reflection and observation.
It made me think about who might have thought up the idea of this stencil? How they must have brought the stencil and spray paint to this location and stealthily did their work. I'm thankful that their plan was realized. It really made my day. Just do those things you might feel shy about or nervous about! That's my new motto.
Zakka is a Japanese word that means "household goods," but it's come to mean much more than that! Zakka objects pair the practical with the cute and artistic. One of my favorite Zakka artists is Shinzi Katoh whose fun notebooks and kitchen canisters we carry! I think you're starting to get the picture. In my ongoing quest for anything Zakka, I came across this great sewing book Zakka Sewing by Theresa Laskey and Chika Mori. I've marked it up with post-it notes and am getting ready to hit the fabric shops this week-end. My favorite is this squirrel tea cozy. It makes me want to have people over for tea just to show it off. There's another wonderful pattern for felt, flower coasters. Felt is a huge favorite of mine and very popular in Japan too. I've seen tons of felt coasters on my trips and always thought, "I can make that." Well, now's my chance. Let me know if you've tried anything out from this book and keep watch for more Zakka items on the site!
Ladybugs are special. A month ago, I was walking down the sidewalk with my husband and I was feeling a little testy. I was hungry and tired. It had been a long day and we still had another appointment to go to, so the day wasn't over yet. I guess, looking at myself from a distance, I might say I was trudging along and not really walking along. That's how mopey I was feeling. We stopped at the crosswalk and waited for a car to go by. Just as I was about to take a step into the street, a ladybug flew up and onto my belly. It looked perfect against my black top. It was a bright red ladybug with black spots and I froze for fear it might fly away. Garo turned to urge me to walk, but when he saw the red speck on my shirt, he froze too. Finally, my first smile of the day popped on. "You know, this is lucky," I told him. "I know," he said. In that moment, we both felt special and loved. That might sound cliche, but when you need a hug and the universe pops over a ladybug for you, you embrace it! So if you see a ladybug, feel lucky!
Everyday I take a moment to have a nice cup of tea and visit my favorite blogs. I love seeing things crafty, hand made, and aesthetically pleasing. These blogs have it all and then some.
The first is Bloesem. Today they have some colorful textiles from Amsterdam. It makes me want to get on a plane and hit some far away bazaars and flea markets!
Another super cute blog is Creature Comforts. Ez, the blogger, also makes some amazing jewelry and crafts sold on her Etsy store. She posted a tutorial on how to make your own wrapping paper by stamping celery stalks. It's given me a new perspective on what's in the veggie drawer of my fridge!
Finally, my all time favorite blog, the mother of all blogs is Decor8. I always find that Holly not only shares her discoveries of others design ventures, but she also shares the design transformations of her own homes. It's such a pleasure to be invited into someone's world like that. I really treasure her site!
The best thing about these blogs is that they're a great place to discover independent sellers and talented crafts. I've done some of my Christmas shopping from different stores found on each of these blogs. This year, there will be some unique gifts under the tree!
It's been an exciting journey, putting all my favorite things on a site together. I wouldn't have been able to do it alone and a few dedicated people came through in a huge way.
A big THANK YOU goes to our designer, Isaac Hartman. Isaac designed our logo and our website. He's an old friend and a loved one. He's the kind of guy who makes everyone feel welcome, sees the beauty in things little and everyday, and is a modern-day Renaissance man. Isaac currently lives and works in Northern California. To see more of his work, please go to Turbo Pixel.
That's Isaac in the center with me on the
left and my sister on the right. Double trouble!
Another big THANK YOU to our photographer, Yasu Tanida. Yasu worked tirelessly snapping each image you see. We met Yasu on a music video shoot. He was the cinematographer and I was the producer with my husband, Garo, on set as the technical director. It was a bonding shoot and over time we all became fast friends. Yasu is not only talented behind the camera, but is also quite athletic. We often go hiking and he pushes the group to keep in stride. Yasu currently lives and works in Los Angeles. To see more of his work, please go to his website.
That's me with Yasu in Osaka.
An ongoing THANK YOU to my sis, Patil Armenian, aka P. She's my best sounding board for creative ideas and everything else that comes with life. She's got a great eye for photos and colors. She's also good at helping me put things in perspective. So a lot of phone calls and moral support fall under her sisterly duties!
That's P on my wedding day working
on her Maid-of-Honor speech!
Finally, the biggest THANK YOU goes to my husband, Garo Hussenjian. Garo worked with me on every aspect of the business plan and website development. From helping pick merchandise to working on the photo shoot, Garo has been there. But his main baby is building complex, shopping-cart websites and he dedicated a lot of time to building this one. He's a real trooper! To see more about his work, please go to Xapnet. Garo and I currently live and work in Los Angeles.