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the secret of lacquerware beauty #1

What is the difference between “MOKUGO” and wood ?
“MOKUGO” is a kind of synthetic wood.  It is made of flour resin, wood powder and wood.  Japanese lacquer-ware “Urushi” made of solid wood is very expensive.
In addition, a real wood base is very delicate as it is susceptible to cracks caused by abrupt change of temperature and humidity once in a while.
For this reason, we strongly recommend Japanese lacquerware made on “MOKUGO” bases to an overseas customer.

How is “Japanese lacquer” differing from “urethane coating” ?
The Japanese lacquer is made from a sap extracted from a bush called “Urushi” in japanese (the botanical name is: Toxicodendron vernicifluum). In many cases it looks like a bush, the lacquer tree (also known as the Japanese sumac or the varnish tree) can grow up to 20 meters high and is present in Japan, China and Korea.

Currently, lacquer trees are becoming more and more scarce in Japan. Besides, the craftsman with the professional ability to gather the lacquer sap is limited. This is one of the reasons which makes the Japanese lacquer “Urushi” very expensive.
On the other hand urethane is a cheap and easy to work with substitute of the lacquer. By adding a pigment (commonly red or black) in a synthetic resin, it is possible to create a surrogate of japanese lacquer.
Because it can easily mass-produced, it can be sold at a very low price.
Additionally, urethane items are easy to use and require little care.
On the other hand, genuine lacquer tree product needs careful care to keep a good condition.

Urethane coated “surrogate lacquer-ware” are very popular. Especially the miso soup bowls(cups) used in general home and restaurants are finished with urethane coating.
Urethane used to be very glossy and easy to scratch: felt like plastic in general was cheap looking.
Technological improvements are making urethane coated surrogate lacquer-ware better looking and more resilient.

Said that…as you can imagine, authentic lacquer-ware beautiful shine and refined touch are still a different planet.
Real lacquer-ware can give you strong emotions and help you sharpen your sensibility.
It is like receiving a kiss from a princess: it may take great effort to obtain one but it is definitely worth it.
Owning and taking care of a lacquerware item may be a life changing experience!

Few important notes you for you to keep in mind:
1. Do not wash lacquer items with a dish detergent. Alkaline detergents must not be used as they remove the shine and make the lacquer-ware look dull.
2. Wash it only with tepid water and wipe off moisture with a dish towel promptly. Then finish rinsing it out with dry dish towel. Finally put away it after just drying for a while away from direct sun exposure.
3. Fingerprints may leave permanent signs if the item is not properly cleaned or left unused for a long time.
When storing lacquer-ware for a long term, it is important to wear cotton gloves when you take care of it. Do not leave your finger prints. etc.

Delicate care is necessary to preserve the refined beauty of lacquer-ware, as you would do for an artwork.
What is important is what you are expecting from you relationship with lacquer-ware items.
Are you looking for daily tableware or for a work of art?
Which one do you want?  It is just up to you!

We have been caught in the NET… (Server problems)

160512-koinobori

Dear japan lovers community:

As you might have noticed,

    our server was down on on 5/9 and 5/10 for about 20 hours.

If you contacted us by email but are not receiving an answer, please contact us again.
We have been caught in the NET…
Also, I noticed our japanese IP address has problems with some hotmail and gmail accounts.

If your messages are returned, please use the alternative address as below:
iax1213[at]gmail[dot]com

By the way, the image on the top are koi-nobori (flying carps). Did you know?
Every family displays (or used to…) this fish shaped flags in front of their house. One carp for each family member, starting from the father and mother on top and following with all the children in order of age.
The festival culminates on 5/5, a festivity dedicated to children.
The carp is a divine creature and brings good auspices to the kids as they may avoid obstacles and swim thru life in a cheerful way.
Of course the mild weather and blue skies of may are even more pleasant with these colorful ornaments which move together with the wind!

But … lets go back to work now.
For all of you who missed us (I received 3 messages on facebook) sorry again and YES, I am looking forward to working with you and remain at your disposal for any question/problem.
All the Best!

Bartok design Japan Co.
Manager: Iacopo Torrini
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cell.: +81-90-8205-1200
iax1213[at]gmail[dot]com
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(click on the photo below to open the related blog entry)

asnaro doubleseater for Odessa

This is the first Bartok design tub going to Ukraine.

The client had problems in contacting us and for some reason the e-mails were bouncing off from the server. But she used an alternative email and we could define the details in few rounds.

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Here are the specs of the tub:

material: natural Japanese Asnaro AB (quarter sawn)

sizes: L1400mm x W800 x H685mm (ext. dim.)

details: nat. oil apron,  wood dowels. Iron brand at front side top-right.

options: asnaro wood internal seat W400mm,  asnaro wood traditional cover 820x200x18 (5pcs)

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The tub was shipped thru a forwarder appointed by the client. We arranged for the pickup directly from our packing company which is already very close to Narita airport.

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It is a perfect tub for 2 people. I hope the clients can have relaxing chats and enjoy the fresh aroma of japanese wood it for many years to come! Of course the seats can be quickly removed for a deep plunge japanese style soaking experience.

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asnaro tub for Dallas


Compact and cute asnaro bathtub ordered thru an architectural office in Texas.
From the first request of information to shipping it took 1 month exactly so I can say it was a smooth order process.
The client is going to use it in a master bathroom remodel and after the initial quotation, we modified the corner joints from metal plates to wooden dowels and added an overflow cut on the short side.

Here below are the specs of the tub:

material: natural Japanese Asnaro AB grade bathtub (quarter sawn)
sizes: L900mm x W700 x H710mm (ext. dim.)
note: natural oil apron, wood dowels. Iron brand at front side top-right
accessories:
– Asnaro wood internal seat W300mm
– Asnaro wood traditional cover 720x180x18 (5pcs)
– Sawara wood ladle with handle (180D 290H)
– Sawara wood large bucket(230D 120H):
– Hinoki wood traditional stool (300x180x200H)

Survey about yukata: RESULTS

We received 26 votes thru the survey form and one via email.

Here is a summary of the results:
160322-yukata-question-a

The Yoshiwara design won with ample advantage
160322-yukata-question-b

Yes, I think we will apply the logo on the bottom corner
160322-yukata-question-c

Almost a dual match between navy and red. I think we will provide the two options for you to choose!
160322-yukata-question-d

We will develop one or two patterns of yukata bathrobe and will keep remain open to any further comment or advice you may have! All the Best//

Getting ready for the next production of special reserve oil

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In the pictures above you can see about 800 Kg. of scraps of kiso hinoki wood.
I am going to distillate this material for the second harvest of special reserve hinoki essential oil.
To my knowledge, there is no maker producing oil from 250 (and over) year old hinoki wood.
As we could experiment in the first harvest (autumn 2014) the scent is superb, less forest like and more spicy than commercial grade hinoki essential oil (usually made with 70-90 year old lumber)

Before bottling the production, I want to offer a special deal to the heavy users and commercial users.
I will sell about half of the total in 100ml bottles at 12,000 JPY per bottle. or 10 bottles for 100,000 JPY.
Compare to the 4500JPY in case of the 10cc individual package bottle with drip cap!
It is almost 1/5 the price!

If interested please contact me at: japan@bartokdesign.com

karakami wall panels

Do you know the “washi” hand made paper from japan?
There are many qualities of translucent, ivory colored, naturally textured, wabisabi rice papers from japan.
Washi was used for writing, for everyday items, for shoji panels and even as a wall covering.
Very good.

Second question: do you know the paper used for fusuma doors?

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It is also based on washi paper but it is hand printed or hand painted and comes in a large single sheet roughly of the size of a tatami. Well, in japan there are many washi types with their proud history and characteristics.

But there is only one fusuma paper which is standing out from the rest: the fusuma paper for excellence is the karakami paper from Kyoto. There are several plain color bases made of  smooth “torinoko” washi on which the pattern is hand printed with woodenblocks. The color consists of natural pigments and inks on a pearl-like mica base. The effect is very stilish: it is perfect and elegant but has some irregularities peculiar of the hand printing.

We went to Kyoto for you to Maruni, one of the most famous maker of karakami paper and owner of a collection of thousands of original woodblocks.

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Here below is the detail of a woodblock. As you can see the image itself is hand carved. The block is moved with speed and precision to create large patterns.

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I was stroken at the modern beauty of a handprint made with use of black “urushi” lacquer. (see below)

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Of course if you visit Maruni you just feel like you want to buy everything… but there was an item that I felt particularly suitable for the japan-lovers allover the world: decorative panels made of pleated karakami.

The panels are quite small and can be easily shipped with EMS. They can hang on walls and used for decoration of small rooms. I thought it is ideal for a present and bought some to send to friends and family.

If you like them too, take a look in the bartok design shop.

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The panels are packaged in an elegant box, wrapped in rice paper and  accompanied with a certificate of guarantee.

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There is a short video to watch on Google Arts & Culture.

Hinoki tub for Jakarta

Here below are the specs of the tub:

material: natural Japanese Hinoki AB grade bathtub (quartersawn)
sizes: L1400mm x W900mm x H640mm (ext. dim.) 540mm (deep)
note: wooden dowels, natural oil finish
accessories:
– Hinoki wood “Sunoko” floor grate panel 900 x 700 x H55mm
– Asnaro wood stool (330x220x300H)
– Sawara wood large bucket(230D 120H)
– Hygrometer (complimentary)

fragrance bags

Have you ever been in a Kyoto kimono store or even a souvenir shop and be welcomed by a heavenly smell of incense?
Japanese culture does not make large use of perfumes (as Tom Cruise found out in the “last samurai” they prefer to wash the body rather than covering the body odor with deodorants…).
But there is an exception and a reason.

In a very humid climate, the insets proliferate and japanese have learned to protect themselves and the precious kimono robes with incense. The fragrances that japanese use are very pure and refined: not too strong but very particular and have surprising insect repellent properties.

fragrance-bag

If you do not know what I am talking about, this is for you.
I am committed to bring to the world the fragrances of traditional japan.
Try to imagine checking in into your hotel room in Dubai or returning to your weekend house after few weeks.
A subtle scent of cleanliness welcomes you and when you open the first drawer of the bedroom chest the aroma becomes more intense giving you a feeling of relaxation and recalling pleasant memories.

With the collaboration of a friend and his 91 year old grandmother (owner of an old manufacture of fragrances) i decided to bring to the world of japan-lovers a collection of exquisite aroma bags made with kimono fabric and containing a mix of selected aromas.

There are 2 sizes:
the “Fragrance Bag” (in 8 colors) suitable for a wardrobe of the entrance of a beauty salon.
-> link to the shop page:
KF0007_Fragrance-Bag-Montpellier-Green

The “Personal sacket” (in 13 colors) can be kept in the car, in the pocket or in a drawer.
-> link to the shop page:
KP0003_Personal-Sachets-Olive-Green


Here are some historical notes the maker is very proud of:

“In the times of the Asuka kingdom in ancient Japan, a piece of fragrant wood washed ashore on Awaji island.
This discovery let to the beginning of the history of use of fragrant incense wood in Japan.
During the Heian period, the Japanese nobility enjoyed the burning of these incense woods.
These fragrant woods were also used to scent the traditional twelve layered ceremonial kimono.

As well as creating an aura of pleasant perfume around the wearer of the Kimono, the fragrant
woods also acted as an insect repellent.
The Japanese believed that these fragrant incense woods were able to create a sense of peace and relaxation and even to have healing homeopathic properties.
The scent from these will provide you and those around you with all the benefits and good fortune long associated with these highly praised woods.”

Feel free to contact me for any question, or just comment below.

Survey for new product: YUKATA ROBES

For 13 years, almost weekly I have been posed the following question:
“do you also carry yukata robes?” (The type of casual kimono you use while in your room in the ryokan or after taking a plunge in a onsen).

In a world regurgitating with products…, I just though it was best for me to concentrate on one I was able to fully design and develop: custom made japanese ofuro.
I was honored to have been recognized and trusted by thousands as an ambassador of the japanese style bathing and I was comfortable in my niche.

But things are going to change.

While living in Japan, I have a privileged communication channel with a wide community of japan-lovers around the globe: this circumstance is not only bless but also a responsibility.

I feel more and more like I have a moral obligation to exit my comfort zone and provide more value to all of you who are trying to graft a slice of japan into your lives.
For this reason, I decided to start a new product line: wear.

Of course the first product of the list will be the long awaited yukata robes.
And I will need your help.
To provide the type of yukata you are looking for, I will need your opinion: the selection I will propose will be based on the survey below.
I will be grateful if you will share with me your thoughts!
It is a simple google survey consisting of 3 main and 3 sub-questions and takes from 30 to 60 seconds to complete.
The survey is anonymous but I will extract 3 of you and present a brand new yukata! (I will contact the winners thru the mailing list using their nicknames)

Please refer to the photos below the survey box. Thank you in advance for your time and precious advice!
NOTE: Feel free to repeat the survey to record the opinionof your family members as well!


(please fill in the survey in the box above)


Question a: which type of wear you may be interested in?

(indicate the level of interest for each option)

yukata bathrobe
No.01 tatekan

matsuri yukata
yukata matsuri

jinbei
jinbei

formal kimono
formal kimono


Question b: in case of yukata, which design do you like?

#01 Tatekan
No.01 tatekan

#02 kusari
No.02 kusari

#03 Yoshiwara
03-daiwa-yoshiwara

#04 Renga
04-renga

#05 Take
05-takegara

#06 Shippou
06-shippou

#07 Matsubishi
08-matsubishi

#08 Genjikou
11-genjikou

#09 Fuchidori Ogi
13huchidoriougi

#10 Orizuru
15-oriduru

#11 Hanakasumi
16-hanakasumi

#12 Matsuba Koma
19-matsuba-koma


Question c: Where do you prefer the bartokdesign brand logo?

on the chest

near the feet

Question d: which material/color you like for the obi belt?

Red/plain

Navy/plain

Yellow/knitted

Green/knitted

Brown/knitted

Stripes


(please fill in the survey in the box above)


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