Access to artisanal collectibles

LOVE to get your hands on some Japanese artisanal items? Here's what to buy and where.

Miyama, from atomi, Mandarin Gallery, #04-27 Miyama

A 37-year-old porcelain brand which hails from Gifu Prefecture uses a "casting" technique, which forms porcelain from plaster moulds.

White porcelain is made by firing porcelain clay in a high-temperature oven to create a translucent patina on its surface, and it becomes an easy-to-wash and stain-resistant material at the same time.

Fulico swing cups go for S$59

Oda Pottery from atomi, Mandarin Gallery, #04-27

Oda Pottery, which is also from Gifu specialises in "white" ceramics, which demand detailed workmanship so as to bring out their flawlessness. The 54-year-old company believes that products cannot just be stylish or beautiful, but also consider ease of use, appropriate sizes and ease of storage.

Christmas cup at S$38

Saikai 'Essence of Life' from atomi, Mandarin Gallery, #04-27

Established in 1946, Saikai began retailing in Arita and Hasami, two neighbouring towns which are known for their beautiful white and colour-painted porcelain. Its products range from cutlery stands, to spoons and vases.

Shell vase at S$280

Kihara, from Supermama, 71 Bras Basah Road, #01-04

Yet another well-established ceramic maker, this time, from Arita in Saga Prefecture. The brand was started in 1955, and it works with different ceramic makers based in the area, giving it access to 400 years of traditional techniques. In Singapore, Kihara has collaborated with Supermama to create a set of award-winning tables, featuring local icons such as the HDB flat and Angsana tree.

Komon Plate at S$48 each

Sanshu, from Supermama, 71 Bras Basah Road, #01-04

Chefs know that a good knife makes all the difference, so it is no wonder that Sanshu knives are popular with professional chefs across Japan. The knives are handcrafted by master craftsmen in Seki, Japan's most historical blacksmithing city. This is the place were samurai swords are said to be conceived. The same techniques used to create those swords are now used to create kitchen knives.

Seki Yoshihide 33 Layered petty knife at S$180 each

Shotoku Glass, from Supermama, 71 Bras Basah Road, #01-04

What do lightbulbs and these drinking glasses have in common? They are both made using the same techniques. Established in 1922, Shotoku Glass was initially a manufacturer of glass for light bulbs. The company uses the same technique to produce their range of thin drinking glasses called Usuhari, which are handcrafted. The glasses appear to be very delicate but supposedly can be handled with the usual care as other glassware.

Usuharu Sake Cup at S$35

Kanaami-Tsuji, from D Bespoke, 2 Bukit Pasoh Road

Kanaam-Tsuji draws on the traditional craftsmanship of Kyo-Kanaami or metal knitting. The technique is used for making kitchen utensils such as tofu servers and tea strainers. In head artisan's Kenichi Tsuji's deft hands, the traditional art form is now employed to make lampshades and baskets.

Lampshades from S$450

Kohchosai Kosuga from D Bespoke, 2 Bukit Pasoh Road

As a material, bamboo is flexible and environmentally friendly and has been an integral part of Japanese culture for over 1,000 years.

Since 1898, Kohchosai Kosuga has been dedicated to exploring the qualities of bamboo in their workshops and facilities in Kyoto. It produces a wide range of products such as flower baskets, tableware, bags and lighting.

Bamboo baskets from S$100 

Nakagawa Mokkougei, from D Bespoke, 2 Bukit Pasoh Road

Nakagawa Mokkougei represents the fine tradition of Kyoto woodcrafting where time-honoured skills are passed on from father to son.

The company prides itself on its wooden buckets (ki-oke), which are handcrafted using a technique developed 700 years ago. In olden days, wooden buckets were used for bathing, storing rice and miso. Today, these buckets are used as champagne coolers.

Champagne wine cooler from S$1,000

This article was first published on Dec 6, 2014.
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