Hosting monthly trunk shows online was a necessary decision for the survival of my business during Covid-19 times. All in-person events have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, and shipping overseas has been patchy or still closed to some countries. Simply put, my job is to buy materials, make all the things and then sell them to make a profit for my time, energy and experience. This is my full-time job, my income, not my hobby or charity work.
Calling all kokeshi lovers!
Meet Laetitia Hébert, the founder and owner of Folkeshi, a business celebrating modern day kokeshi and kokeshi artisans. Folkeshi is a webshop dedicated to newly-made kokeshi dolls, kokeshi-inspired goods and Laetitia's book Kokeshi published last year. Laetitia works directly with Japanese artisans, focusing primarily on traditional kokeshi, but has recently started collaborations with creative artisans such as Miura Setsuko.
Originally from France, Laetitia spent 5 years in Japan (2012 to 2017) living in Ashikaga, a small town in Tochigi prefecture. Ashikaga is a very quiet and traditional area which totally challenged Laetitia and her husband to speak and read Japanese.
What would Nan do? That's what I think when I need to solve a problem. My Nan wasn't an especially gifted inventor or scientist, or guru of any kind, but she was practical. She lived through WW2, gave birth to a baby in the final year of the war (my mum) and embraced the 'make do and mend' culture with verve.
Nothing was ever wasted, things were stored for later, things were made from other things, things were given away and things were adapted and fixed. There were tools in the house, in case you needed to make something, and nobody ever seemed to 'get a man in', they just did it themselves.
Nan was a sorter of objects, a giver of things (usually to those less fortunate than her). If she'd heard about the Japanese concept of 'mottainai' in her lifetime she would have nodded sagely because that's how she lived her own life and how she taught my mum to live hers. Waste not, want not. A penny saved is a penny earned. One man's trash is another man's treasure.
This is why I'm so passionate about not wasting things that still have life in them. Why I based a whole business on saving damaged kimono from the landfill and to take the 'mottainai' spirit and run with it in my British way.
In Shimokitazawa I'm always thrilled to see boxes of unwanted things outside homes with a sign saying 'Please take anything you like.' In fact, we've been doing the same for many years outside our home too. It's fantastic to see another generation of 'gifters' coming through with my own children donating their things to the 'Mottainai Box' on a regular basis.
The icing on the cake, the ultimate validation of my brand message and core values filtering through to my customers happened this week. A gorgeous customer took the time and effort to return these earring boxes in pristine condition to be used again. Happy tears. My Nan would be proud.
NOTE: The images above are 'mottainai' items discovered in my area this week. I took what we will use and left the rest.
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Cooler days, sweaters, scarves, crisp air (and in East Japan) the bluest of blue cloudless skies.
Can you tell we're coming into my favourite season of the year (in Japan anyway!)? Insects are quietening and the leaves are becoming crisp and tinged with Autumn. Christmas is approaching fast and this year more than any other we'll need a little sparkle to go with our cosy comfort.
'Home is where the heart is', they say, and we have all seen a fair amount of our homes in 2020. Zoom calls, little to no travelling, missing out on seeing family and friends in real life. But we're still here, and we're ready for a bit of cheer and a better 2021.
These Hikari earrings embody the idea of sparkle at home. Handcrocheted, light as a feather loops swish from lucite sparkle studs. As usual this is a limited edition collection with only a few pairs in each colour-way. You can pre-order yours in the webshop and they will be shipped out within a week.
These earrings are launching on Friday 11th September 2020 to the Mailing List.
General release on Saturday 12th September 2020 at 9am.
Living and travelling widely in Australia and Asia over the past 18 years I noticed our beloved beaches and oceans becoming polluted with plastic and harming sea life. As a family we watched a disturbing documentary called 'A Plastic Ocean’. My then 10 year old asked me if people knew much about this plastic problem, I didn’t have an answer for him. The movie had such an impact on us that we took on the challenge of eliminating as much single use plastic from our lives as possible.
Using beeswax wraps is one way we can reduce our impact on the environment and embrace sustainable living. Beeswax wraps are the perfect alternative to plastic wrap for keeping food fresh. They are natural, reusable and versatile. Beeswax food wraps are perfect for storing cheese and prolonging the life of vegetables and fruit (avocados and apples do especially well). They are also good for covering any leftover food in bowls or for carrying sandwiches/onigiri and snacks on the go.
I absolutely love sharing my story with others and listening to other people’s stories. I am consistently inspired to continue what I am doing. Working together, we can reduce our plastic waste and care for our world for future generations.
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It's been another month of staying home, no public transport or eating out. The C-19 cases are rising rapidly in Tokyo and the governor has asked us to refrain from travelling outside of Tokyo until cases slow.
I hear many people talking about wanting to 'live' rather than 'exist' these days, but I believe that you can 'live' by staying home and trying out a new way of life. The old world as we know it has gone, I've already grieved the loss of it, now it's time to build a new way of living. And I'm embracing it. Are you?
BUILDING: Overseas Makers Guild
It's a small but perfectly formed group of makers who are in different stages of setting up their handmade businesses overseas. We are already becoming quite international!
I'm here to support, to cheer-lead and to help with the logistics of setting up overseas.
Want to join? Click here to join.
MAKING: Red shiso cordial
So my hubby came home with a HUGE bag of red shiso last week and I couldn't think of anything to cook with it. So I invented a quick cordial recipe and then froze it into ice cubes. I now have red shiso cordial to last me the summer!
Big handful of red shiso (about twice the amount in the photo)
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
The juice of a lemon
2 cups of water
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DOING: 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles
It's not something I imagined I'd be into in my 40's but this pandemic has brought out different sides to us all hasn't it? This one was from a lovely friend who visited from Australia last year and we already have the next one lined up.
Anyone else into puzzles?
LISTENING: Conversations of Inspiration Podcast
I have to be honest that I mostly listen to business podcasts while I work in the studio or go for a walk these days and this Podcast recommendation is no exception.
Holly Tucker is a true inspiration who set up Not on the High Street to help handmade businesses sell their work online. In this podcast she meets with British founders working in a variety of fields who tell their story of how they set up their businesses. So many heartfelt moments and inspiration for anyone in business.
Apple previews are here.
EATING: Home made soda bread
Although we're not into the hot part of Summer in japan...yet...I still don't always fancy a hot meal in the evenings. Open sandwiches with home made bread are my fave go-to.
We still go back to the original soda bread recipe we've been using for a while now as it's so easy and so instant! No yeast, no proving, no kneading. What's not to love?
If you'd like to make your own bread, check out my recipe here.
Something has been bubbling under the surface for a long time. Something that I think I didn't really want to admit to myself if I'm totally honest.
I left teaching 10 years ago because I couldn't imagine life as a mum and as a full-time educator. This is the hand that many women are dealt after having children but I felt it was an easy choice that was best for the family at that point in time. I already secretly knew that I wanted to set up in business on a full-time basis, having previously had a side-business since being a teen.
It was a juggle with one little one in Nursery and another as a tiny baby. I learned a lot in those first years, more than my brain could take at times. I can't tell you how often I wanted to give it all up, how I had no idea what a brand actually was never mind owning the skills to build one. I was bootstrapping (self-funding) all the way and it was just me, a studio and an extremely supportive hubby. Being a solo business owner in the handmade field means that you have to learn how to become a photographer, graphic designer, writer, social media manager, marketer, accountant, website designer and salesperson. Oh, and design and make products at the same time.
It sounds as if I'm complaining. I'm not. I've never felt freer, more in control or self-motivated in my whole working life. And I should be happy with that right? Well, not exactly. You see the thing I talked about at the beginning, that niggly feeling, that secret fear is that I'm still a teacher after all, despite being out of the classroom for a decade.
I want a world where people can work flexibly, feel like they're making a contribution to their family's finances, take their business wherever they travel and have fun while they work. Most of all I want to share my tips and tricks with you, so you don't have to work as crazily as I did in the beginning!
It's been a long time coming, but my new FREE Facebook group OVERSEAS MAKERS GUILD to support you in building your handmade business overseas is now LIVE! (When I say 'group' there's actually only me in it so far, as you guys are the first to know.) If you are planning, in the process of setting up, or in the early stages of launching a handmade business overseas, we'd love to have you join us.
My name is Alison and I’m a half-Spanish, half-English wife and mum, living in Tokyo.
I moved over to Tokyo from London, England two years ago with my husband and two boys, due to my husband’s job relocating, temporarily, to an office here.
Our life now in Tokyo is such a contrast to our previous one in London, where I was a teacher and dyslexia specialist - but we felt very ready for a new adventure and chapter in our lives!
There are many aspects of Japan and Japanese culture that we appreciate and enjoy- one of them being the amazing food! We love eating sushi and have found many little sushi restaurants hidden away around unexpected corners nearby. We have also noticed that shopping is a popular activity here. Our favourite places to shop are in Shibuya, Roppongi and Omotesando - I particularly like Tokyu Hands and Parts Club, mainly because I have always been a fan of all crafts and jewellery making!
I first met Victoria and Bikudesigns at a Christmas bazaar, where she had her beautiful jewellery on display at a stall. I was so impressed by the amazing way that she had used vintage kimono material to create stunning and original pieces, that I immediately became a Biku Fan!
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I have these ideas that just won't leave me alone. You know the kind? When you're walking around the supermarket, in the shower, while trying to get to sleep at night. They aren't troubling ideas, on the contrary actually. For me, they come back again and again and then life and studio work gets in the way.
The magic is in the quiet times (that COIVD-19 has given us aplenty) that I have a chance to try these ideas on for size. Sometimes they work and sometimes they are thrown on the failure pile. That's the reality of design work; For every successful project there are several that just don't work out how you imagined.
This is exactly how the kimono sequin was born. It's not the sparkly plastic kind, but made of unloved vintage kimono fabric that I sourced at an antique market or from a kimono dealer, damaged but parts of it still usable. The trick was to work out how to cut the fabric into perfect discs to make something resembling a sequin.
Cue the 'mottainai' side of my brain. What do we already have that could help me? I didn't want to go out and buy new tools, I was sure that we had what I needed.
And then i remembered hubby's leather work toolbox. It's packed full of wonderful things that I have no idea how to use. But I remembered there were leather punches, all in different sizes.
After treating the kimono with a special glue, it works very much like leather. It can be folded, punched, cut with a craft knife and it doesn't fray. So that's where I started. With a mallet, a punch and some treated kimono. And lots of patience and an open mind.
Welcome to the monthly Sparkle List, a round-up of things I'm buying, eating, reading, growing, making, seeing, watching, doing, learning, listening to... It's like a Pinterest board, in words (and some pictures).
Would love to know what you think!
A month of birthdays and Fathers’ Day and uncertainty over shipping times meant we shopped all gifts and cards online with UK based independent businesses to be sent directly to family members.
Shopping small is important to me and supporting these businesses in the time of Covid is essential to keep them going. I want them around when we come out of all this.
This lovely lot sent photos of themselves out and about in their new headbands. I don't have too many words for the joy I feel at seeing these happy faces finding a way to tame their Covid hairstyles while they patiently wait for it to be safe enough to visit the salon.
Here's what they said in their own words:
"I think it’s a mix of new accessories, sunshine, boy back at school part time and new biz ideas! Plus I turn 40 next week! How exciting!!! Thanks for adding a bit of joy to my week!"
"All four headbands arrived and are beautiful! And so comfortable to wear!"
"How am I going to choose? Love them both, thank you! "
Victoria: Awwwww. You all look so smiley and lovely!!
Customer:That's the magic of your headbands!
More headbands have been restocked and new colours and styles are coming all the time! See you over in the webshop.
Welcome to Kelly Wetherille, the multi-passionate brains behind the new bath and body brand, Shizen Natura. This month I'm delighted to be collaborating with Kelly on the Biku Self-Care Kit, a treat kit for these uncertain times. Get your kit in the Biku webshop here.
What do you sell/ make/ do?
I sell natural products that help people to get back to basics and away from all the nasty chemicals that permeate our lives. Everything is handmade in small batches, using just a few easy to understand ingredients, most of which come from plants.
Tell us about your business story? What is the 'why' behind your brand?
For my day job I am a journalist covering the fashion and beauty industries in Japan. I get a lot of freebies from companies, and I became very conscious of the excess waste. At the same time, I started looking more closely at the products I use every day and their ingredients. Even those that professed to be natural often weren't, and they were always packaged in plastic. I thought that maybe I could do better for myself and the planet, and I started developing my own recipes that would be simpler, more natural versions of the products I loved. I did this as a hobby for about three years before I started sharing some of my creations with friends as gifts. Eventually those friends started asking to purchase more of my products from me, and that's when I decided to turn my hobby into a business.
What's your business philosophy?
I think every business must at its heart have something to give back; something that makes the world a better place. Existing solely for the purpose of profits is no longer acceptable, and many young consumers feel the same way. If your business is honest and ethical, sales will follow.
What problems are you solving for your customer?
Providing simple, all-natural yet effective daily products that are not packaged in plastic.
How can people shop from you?
I am still working on my website (I have three other jobs, so it's taking me a while!), but for now people can send me a direct message via my Instagram or Facebook pages.
My name is Amy, I'm an Australian with a long held love of Japan and fabrics.
I first came across Biku Designs when I was living in Tokyo and instantly loved the concept of turning vintage kimonos into modern jewelry to be worn and loved any or everyday. I met Victoria at an event she held to bring small business owners and Instagram users together. One of the things I noticed that day and have admired since is how wonderful she is at supporting other women and bring us together.
I'm now living back in Australia and I love my Biku Designs necklace as a little piece of Japan that I took with me. I pop on my necklace when I want to add a bit of interest and colour to an outfit. It never fails to draw compliments! I also love Biku pieces as special gifts - a one-off souvenir that I know will be worn and loved.
My business is the yin to the Biku yang! I run an online store specialising in modern fabrics by independent Japanese designers. I love supporting these artists to create their original textiles and inspiring creativity amongst the sewists in my community at the same time. I named my business after my second son who was born in Tokyo at the same time as the idea for my business - Indy Bindy.
I first came to Japan as a high school student for a year long exchange and Japan has drawn me back many times over the years. I completed my latest 4 year stint in January of this year and know that I will be back many times more!
I not only love the fabric, but also the food, martial arts and the modern and ancient culture that are both alive and well today.
You can find my fabrics at https://indybindy.com.au/ and you can follow along with my sewing and general adventures at http://www.instagram.com/indybindyfabrics
Tell us about your work.
I create Japan-inspired artworks of pen and watercolor. I sell original artworks at gallery exhibitions and also offer my designs as prints, postcards, illustration books, and more.
Does your artwork have a story?
My illustrations express intersections.
Intersections of reality and fantasy, of familiar and unfamiliar, and intersections of identity.
As a foreigner living in Japan there can be a lot of focus placed on cultural identity, and the concept of “insider” versus “outsider.” Art is one place where there are no limits and we don’t have to be one thing or another. By creating a space between reality and imagination, between “inside” and “outside,” I feel I’ve found a space where I don’t have to define who I am. It is a place where viewers can find their own world as well and where everyone is welcome.
Do you have a business philosophy?
I believe that it is important to create from the heart. Both the artist and the viewer can feel a good vibe from artwork that is genuine. I will only put out a design that I’ve really put my love into and I have grown to trust that that energy will be conveyed naturally to my patrons as well.
As an individual creating art and running a business I also value keeping a personal touch with customers. I always add a handwritten note to my webstore orders, to let my customers know it really is me every time at the other end of their order and that I am filled with personal gratitude for their support.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Art has always been something I’ve loved to do, so creating artwork has never been a question. Since moving to Tokyo I became aware of a wide variety of amazing opportunities and venues to connect with other artists, showcase art, and find new fans. As I had the chance to connect with more people I was motivated and encouraged to widen the variety of offerings using my designs, such as making smaller printed merchandise that was more accessible, especially for younger patrons. Now I have a range of merchandise for tabling events and webstore sales, and also continue to offer original artworks at galleries.
What sets your artwork apart from others?
My subject matter and art style fit into that “in between” space. My experience living in Japan has evolved both my identity and my art style and viewers seem to pick up on that. Both Japanese and non-Japanese patrons find my designs unique, yet oddly relatable. I love thinking that how I express my imagination and experience through artwork might help open up more flexibility for everyone who feels like they are in an “in between” space living in Tokyo.
I think original art is often forgotten as an option for gifts or personal memories. I hope that I can remind people of the option and help them find something special and unique.
Find out more about Erica Ward Illustration
Click the “Shop” link from the menu on my website to see my available products. For inquiries about illustration or commission artworks, feel free to drop me a message in the “Contact” section or on social media.
To hear about upcoming exhibitions, events, and to peruse my artwork, feel free to follow me on Instagram and Facebook.
Website Instagram Facebook
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Welcome to The Tokyo Small Business Round-up, the place to find your favourite businesses who are trading online.
When this whole thing has passed (and it WILL pass), imagine the businesses you want to still see operating. Support them by buying vouchers, ordering takeout, learning with them online or taking advantage of their online offers. If you are not in a position to buy, you can still help by following the businesses on their social media channels, commenting and sharing their posts. It would mean the world to us Tokyo small business owners if you could share this post to wherever your Tokyo friends are hanging out.
If you'd like to be added to the list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your support. Stay well.
FOOD AND DRINK
apéro. is a wine bar and restaurant located between Aoyama and Omotesando and run by French wine lovers Guillaume and Chloé Dupérier.
At apéro, our wines are directly sourced from France as we seek to provide you with a very personal, intimate wine selection that reflects both the passion and craftsmanship of the winemakers we love the most. Treat yourself with a unique and pleasurable experience by joining the apéro. community!
apéro is now delivering wine with a special discount of -30% on all items! Get your favorite bottles delivered directly to your home by our team, everyday from 11:00 to 21:30 for people in Shinjuku, Shibuya, Minato, Bunkyo, & Chiyoda.
Check out the complete wine list here : https://apero.co.jp/en/wines
Order now and get a -30% discount on all price tags shown online !
Delivered right to your home by the apéro team (limited to Shibuya, Shinjuku, Chiyoda, Bunkyo & Minato) or to be picked-up directly at apéro. wine bar aoyama.
Email : email@example.com
Phone : 03-6325-3893
Address : Japan, 〒107-0062 Tokyo, Minato-ku, Minami Aoyama 3−4−6, Aoyama346 Building, 3F
In cash or credit card upon delivery
Or "cash-on delivery" (Yamato, EMS...)
If you're in lock down, isolation or just needing a pick-me-up, I'm here to serve! The world has been turned upside down and we've become obsessed about the news, which let's face it, is making us feel downright sad.
I'm predicting terrible sales for Biku in April, so instead of moping about and feeling sorry for my business, I'm here to brighten my own (and hopefully your) days.
The whole of April will see me doing things a bit out of the ordinary. If you're in the VIP Club you'll be invited to play ZINGO! (the Biku version of BINGO but in a Zoom chat) with loads of prizes. There'll be jokes, giveaways, a trunk show, kimono colouring and probably some dancing also this month. There will definitely be lots of making in the studio and hopefully a Zoom Make-Along thrown in too.
I need to keep busy, so let's GO!!!!!!! Are you with me?
P.S. Oh, I almost forgot, there will also be free shipping this month.
Just enter the code: WASHYOURHANDS at checkout. (Not applicable to Kokeshi Boxes sorry!)
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It seems to be all doom and gloom throughout the world at the moment. We're terrified of getting sick, losing loved ones or losing our livelihoods. Anxiety is at a high and we are constantly watching the news or reading reports about the Corona Virus.
So I'm here with a positive spin on this. No, I'm not going to deny the gravity of the situation, it's clear that this is serious stuff, but I refuse to let it terrify me into inaction. That doesn't mean I'm off out on packed trains, going to clubs (too old anyway) or meeting up with friends for hanami. Quite the opposite. I'm hunkering down with the fam for a while, doing my bit so I don't spread this thing to the vulnerable in society.
First off, I'm picturing a moment in time when this thing has all blown over. Which it will, at some point. That gives me enough strength to keep going. Going out less means spending less, which means I can earn less for the time being.
WHAT I'M GRATEFUL FOR
WHAT I PLAN TO DO IN LIFE
WHAT I PLAN TO DO IN BUSINESS
SOME IDEAS FOR YOU
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Just before the triple disaster on March 11th 2011 I made an ikebana arrangement featuring sakura (cherry blossom) branches.
The devastating earthquake at 14:46 on that day triggered a deadly tsunami taking more than 20,000 lives in one wave and the following explosion at the nuclear plant in Fukushima left Japan reeling. We were terrified by endless aftershocks and distracted by where to buy uncontaminated water and (of course) toilet paper.
Those little sakura branches lay forgotten in a bucket of water on our terrace for months. And when the earth had settled enough for us to finally get life in order, I realized that the branches were still sitting there. The blossoms had long since disappeared and in their place, bright green waxy leaves had sprouted. Underneath the water, the branch had grown thick white roots.
Fast forward nine years and one of those little branches is now a tree that blossoms every year. It sprouts the same waxy leaves in the summer and turns golden in the Autumn. After dropping its crisp leaves in the winter, within a matter of days tiny pink buds appear. The cycle is seamlessly endless.
It feels like the world is in a similar place again. This time, a slowly unfurling disaster of epic proportions. But I know we can endure if we all work together. How can I be so sure? The sakura told me so.
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The fabulous Lena from Root and Blossom created a business from a personal breakthrough. Now she's helping others to organise their cash and supporting charities along the way.
Hi! My name is Lena, and I am the owner of and maker at Root and Blossom. I sell personally handmade, high-quality cash wallets that equip people to be organized with their finances, whether it's for budgeting, currencies when traveling, or staying tidy.
Root and Blossom was a brand name I remember hitting me square across the back of my head in 2009 one night while walking through a parking lot to my boyfriend's (now husband) truck. In retrospect, my life lacked many advantages growing up but for whatever reason, I never saw it that way. I've always lived with the mentality that life is what you make of it; regardless of your situation, you need to take root and blossom to thrive.
In 2014 my husband and I were young, newly married with a one-year-old and pregnant. We were overwhelmed with the world of money, investing, saving, and spending. We took a financial class that focused on cash budgeting, the idea being that it's critical to physically feel the painful emotions associated with giving money over and seeing money leave your wallet each month that wasn't present when mindlessly swiping a card.
I was already quite overwhelmed with switching away from social spending norms that I needed to find a way to make it less of a hassle at the checkout stand fiddling with my money, so I designed, constructed, and began using my wallet! Having all my budgets organized into simple zipped pockets in one place allowed me to organize and handle my money and budgets with ease and confidence.
After two years, my husband and I were able to rid ourselves of debt because we now truly felt and saw the value of a dollar. Throughout that experience, I'd got checkout employees and other customers in line asking me where I bought my wallet and how they could get one. I started making individual sales here and there, but then those people had friends or family that they wanted to pass my information along to, which eventually led to my first Etsy wallet sale on September 2, 2014.
Over the last five and a half years, I've learned that people around the world desire these wallets for more reasons than my intended purpose, and I adore that! I set out to solve the problem of simplifying budgeting, but I also helped solve the problem of organizing currencies for people who are traveling through multiple countries and thrifty shoppers wanting a practical way to divide their coupons.
What I want potential customers to know about my business is that when you buy from Root and Blossom, you're not only supporting a single small business, you're supporting multiple!
It's my business philosophy that there is room for everyone, and the success of my business is because of the other team players in the arena. I also find it beautifully poetic that financial frustrations and burdens led me to a place of financial freedom where I now have the means to donate and support charities more than I was capable of previously! The bigger my business grows, the more I can give, and that's what keeps me in it.
HOW TO FIND ROOT AND BLOSSOM
If you are interested in checking out my cash wallets, please visit my shop at www.rootandblossom.etsy.com! You can also find the latest Root and Blossom information through Instagram, @rootandblossom. XO
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My name is Tanja Bach, the Founder of Contents Bridge KK, a learning and development company providing action-inspired soft skill training for corporations as well as executive and entrepreneur coaching. We will be adding graphic recording services to our offerings as soon as I have completed the certification process.
I'm originally from Germany, grew up in Switzerland, studied in the US and have lived in Japan longer than anywhere else in the world. (Long enough to see that slivers of silver are starting to add sparkle to my dark hair).
It's difficult to summarize why I love Japan so much. For starters, my soulmate is Japanese. I also love that Japan is a country of contrasts, modern and old, innovative and traditional. If you open your eyes, there's so much to see. I learned to appreciate the small things and look for beauty everywhere. That's also one reasons I love Bikudesigns. Victoria manages to transform old things into modern jewelry in an innovative and wearable way.
A few months later, Bikudesigns (aka Victoria), started to advertise the Leap Collection 2020, a collection of "unique and never to be repeated" earring designs. I mean: UNIQUE and NEVER to be repeated?! Who doesn't want to wear one of those around town! Plus she turned it into a treasure hunt, only revealing the new designs on the day of. And so I woke up in the morning and checked the Bikudesigns webpage while I drank my cup of coffee. `Cause, you never know, there might be pair I just need to have....
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This month we welcome Tokyo-based Jikuu Japan founded by Mayuko Rutledge and Ali Buford. I'm so privileged to know these two savvy business women in person, the loveliest knife sellers in Japan.
Tell us a bit about your business.
We make handcrafted knives and other kitchen items from Japan. We blend traditional Japanese artistry with newer technologies and design to make modern treasures.
How did you meet?
We met at our children's’ school and discovered a common love of food, travel and all things made by hand. We also had a surprising history: Mayuko, from Shimane prefecture, was an exchange student in the United States at the same time that Ali, from the US, was part of a travel program in Japan including Shimane.
We had the dream to share our love of Japanese things with our friends and family in further flung places (including Tokyo!). Mayuko had relationships with makers in her hometown and once she started introducing Ali to the goods, especially those knives, she was hooked and an idea was born!
What's the story behind the knives?
We want to help in our small way to breathe life into the tradition of Japanese craftsmanship by connecting people to our products. Our chief artisan’s family has been making knives for centuries and samurai swords before that. There is something special about things that are made by human hands, repeatedly over time.
In what ways do you help your customers?
Japanese artistry is in a league-of-its-own but can be difficult to access - especially for foreigners. We want to connect our customers to products they love as well as give them information so that they can make the best purchasing decisions for themselves. And finally, we help customers understand how to care for their knives so that they can last a lifetime (or a very, very long time).
What sets your business apart from others?
Everything is handmade in a tradition centuries old, but re-imagined for modern kitchens. For example, our knives are typically made from high-speed carbon steel so that customers can have a super sharp knife but also one that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance (no oiling needed!)
We also provide quality customer care (e.g. generous warranty; classes for sharpening and knife skills; handle replacement for a small fee) so our customers can buy and own with confidence.
What's your best seller?
Our all purpose knife, the Santoku, and our vegetable knife, the Nakiri are our best sellers and our cornerstone products. We always tell our customers that you can get 99% of basic kitchen tasks completed with these two knives. And, they seem to listen to us!
Get in touch with Jikuu
Shop online: www.jikuujapan.com
Reach out to see our knives in person in Tokyo: firstname.lastname@example.org
My name is Shelley Sacks and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa. I am an Australian citizen having lived there for 14 years and I am now a Permanent Resident in Japan, after 15 years of an interesting life here.
I live in Azabu Juban and I am the owner of Ohana International School, a truly amazing International preschool in Minato-ku, Tokyo.
What I love about Japan
I love the cleanliness and the order, which makes standing in line for a short person just wonderful. I never have to worry about not being seen or served.....phew. I also love the nature in the countryside of Japan and in particular the rotenburo (outdoor bath). Sitting in an outside onsen in the snow is something extremely special.
Why I buy Bikudesigns
I buy Bikudesigns for friends and they all absolutely adore their gifts. One of them in the USA who lived in Japan many years ago said that wherever she goes, people remark on her stunning necklace.
I love my Bikudesigns brooch and am so happy that Victoria could use the kimono material that I sent her for this and other jewellery that people may purchase.
Tell us about your philosophy
A huge part of the philosophy/mission statement of my school is "giving back to the community". I love how we give back and share our blessings with others. By giving kimono material that has been in our storage for a long time to someone who I know will use it; by building a kindergarten classroom in rural Cambodia called 'Ohana Learning Tree'; by participating in Place To Grow Santa Soul Train event every year and giving gifts to the children there; by building a home for a family who lost theirs in Typhoon Hainan in Philippines.
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After a Christmas and New Year studio hiatus, it was time to challenge my design muscles and see what my brain could come up with. It needed to be woken up after a very busy year of working in this business. I wanted to challenge my creativity in ways I hadn't before to get myself back into the swing as quickly as possible.
Not just a challenge, a MEGA challenge of daily proportions. That's more like it. 29 pairs of earrings, each unique and created from the materials I had on hand in the studio. No ordering supplies, no popping to the craft shop to stock up...simply what was in front of me.
Every day from 1st -29th February, I'll be uploading a pair of one-of-a-kind earrings to the Biku webshop. Each pair is unique and never to be repeated. Keep popping into Facebook and Instagram to see the daily offering.
Imagine walking into a restaurant/party/bar wearing something that nobody else owns? Something that they can't actually get even if they wanted to? Something with a story.
Are you in?
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees C
Large bowl for dry ingredients
Small bowl for wet ingredients
Butter knife or other non-sharp knife
200g graham flour
300g whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Juice of one lemon
2 tsp honey
1. Mix the two kinds of flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda in the large bowl.
Add your extra ingredients and flavours at this point. You could add dried herbs, spices, raisins, dried figs, nuts, seeds...ANYTHING you like!
2. Juice one lemon and add to 400ml of milk to make butter milk. Mix until the mil thickens.
Add the honey and mix.
Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients bit by bit, mixing with a knife.
The consistency of the dough will be surprisingly wet and sticky! If it's runny, add some more flour until it turn sticky.
3. Line a baking tray with grease-proof paper or a silicone mat if you have one (I'm using up my Costco bulk buy and then switching to silicone).
Wet your hands and shape into a ball.
4. Wet a sharp knife and make a deep cross into the top of the dough.
Bake for 40 mins at 200 degrees C.
NOTE: I've tried this recipe with a mix of rye, strong white flour and wholemeal and other combos too. As long as you have 500g of dry flour ingredients, it should work.
Here are some breads I've tried and LOVED:
I'd love to know how you get on with the recipe, so please share your bakes on social media using the hashtag ＃bikubread and tag me anywhere @bikudesigns. I promise I'll try to share you to my stories.
We've all been there... searching the internet blindly to find that special gift for an important birthday, a special thank you, a pick-me-up for a friend, a graduation, Mothers' Day, Fathers' day...the list really goes on. We spend hours and hours scrolling for that 'special something'.
But why do we feel the need to gift that special something in the first place?
1. It shows the receiver that we know them.
2. It shows them we care enough to go the extra mile to find something they'll love.
3. It demonstrates our good taste.
4. We want the receiver to feel unique and valued.
5. We want to support small businesses and all they stand for.
6. We want to shop sustainably, buying items from brands that are not mass-produced.
7. We want a story. Of the hands who made it, the history, where the idea came from.
As a maker, I see the work that artisans put into their work and support them as much as I can. I appreciate that they do the same in return for my business.
I'm Victoria, the founder, designer and creator at Bikudesigns, a vintage kimono accessories brand in Tokyo, Japan.