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Ainu

Ainu

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The Story

Ainu

The Story

The relationship between the Ainu people and their forests and nature is sacred. The sculptors commune with the wood they work on and pay homage to the trees from which they get their wood.

This unique connection is beautifully illustrated by the artist and sculptor, Toru Kaizawa, who transformed an ancient piece of sacred wood, known as a ‘Jin Dai Boku’, into the symbol of a hatching turtle, a representation of the emerging Ainu. The resulting sculpture is currently displayed at the British Museum. For the Ainu, wood is considered an extraordinary material, and as such is treated with special care. Each live tree is subject to certain rituals that inform the sensitive harvesting of bark to make garments and other ornaments. Aside from the trees, the forest ecosystem and its inhabitants provide inspiration to the Ainu people. Once such creature is the Blakiston’s Fish Owl, an animal they believe to be their protector.

This symbiosis between the Ainu and nature is timeless – a tradition that we celebrate with our eponymous Ainu collection. Inspired by the work of Toru Kaizawa, our collaboration seeks to shine a light on the fragility of their way of life and dedication to their craft. The furniture series features a wooden handle beautifully carved by Ainu artisans, with a motif of the Blakiston’s Fish Owl eyes. This Ainu symbol of protection motif designed by Mamoru Kaizawa brings to our living spaces the epic story of their community. The motif is echoed in the tableware and linens, with the playful abstract of the Fish Owl making an appearance in some of the delicate ceramic accessories.

We work with artisan ceramic workshops from the Veneto region of Italy. Veneto is renowned for it’s rich heritage in ceramic and porcelain craftsmanship. The selection of clay for our products is carefully done by these knowledgeable craftsmen.

A Wooden Kimono by Toru Kaizawa

The hand carved wooden kimono by Toru is of a pattern designed by his grandmother, Hagi Kaizawa. It is made from a type of wood called Atni in Ainu and Oyhou Nire in Japanese – which is a type of Elm tree. The original kimono designed by Hagi now belongs to a museum in Hakodate located in the southern tip of the city of Hokkaido.

Toru Kaizawa’s wooden kimono art installation can be viewed in its own dedicated space within our gallery, where it is beautifully illuminated by a light fitting specially designed by Shiro Muchiri, to emulate the watchful eyes of the Blakiston’s Fish Owl eyes.

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