Art & Design
Once in a blue moon, my mother tears herself away from her urushi (Japanese laquerware) projects long enough to hastily send a care package to her daughter halfway across the globe in New York City. These boxes generally consist of Japanese food and snacks, and a few art postcards and exhibition posters on the bottom to motivate me to produce art. Instead of bubble wrap, she fills the empty spots with packs of Japanese rice crackers and random towels. Yes, towels. If there’s one thing I have an excess of in my tiny apartment, it is towels. Washcloths of linen and cotton, tea towels and handkerchiefs of all different patterns. “Who uses handkerchiefs anymore?!”, exclaimed NB recently as we were going through my stash of towels from my mother. “I do.” Or rather, will… someday, and when that day comes I’d like to know that I have a bunch on hand to pick from.
Of all of the towels she sends, I love getting tenugui from her – thin cotton, rectangular Japanese tea towels – which are utterly useless but pretty to look at. Stores selling them have desperately assigned uses for them, but they’re pretty much glorified rags. They’re too thin to be of much use to soak up liquids, and they have two frayed ends which make them look a little cheap. Because they’re too cute to use to sop up food juices off the kitchen countertop or to wipe up spilled wine, they end up sitting in my closet. I know I’ll have an epiphany one day as to what I can do with them.
For those of you in the Tokyo area looking for affordable gifts and souvenirs for friends and family, I recommend Kamawanu, a Japanese tenugui shop. I’m always sucked into this store and NB has to tear me away from the rows upon rows of kawaii patterns as she reminds me that we have “a whole bunch at home”. Yes, yes, but we don’t have one with fish in this color!
Kamawanu has a brief history of the tenugui here on their website. They also have illustrated suggested uses for thetenugui so check it out:
On the same side of the world and a little further south, there is another towel company I am smitten with. Rodriguez is in Australia, a country where I was born but of which I have little recollection. They sell gorgeous 100% linen tea/kitchen towels that become softer with each wash. The majority of their themes are Australian flowers and animals, and they are beautifully illustrated. My mother bought a bunch of these towels and put them in storage before our family moved back to Tokyo. And fortunately for me, I get to use them (eventually) and love them along with all of my other treasured towels.
Check them out here: http://www.rodriquez.com.au/