Kaikado at the Victoria Albert Museum
London / ENGLAND
– An eye towards the future
The slump of global economies has made for hard times. The lifespan of companies large and small remains uncertain. In a climate where survival is key, my approach has always been to go against the conservative. While most companies are scaling back and fighting tooth and nail for any work they can garner, the love of shared connections feels lost. While the days of passing jobs to friends seems to have dwindled, I prefer to champion my friends, pass jobs along, and generally support the growth of other small producers. Ultimately I believe that what goes around, comes around. Which is why today, I would like to draw attention to Kaikado and my good friend Takahiro Yagi.
This past week, the Victoria Albert Museum (VA) in London acquired a number of Kaikado’s tea caddies into their permanent collection. It’s a huge honor for Taka and his family to have their 150+ year efforts recognized by the VA. In 2012, when I started shooting my series on Japanese Craftsmen, Taka and I met in his family’s studio and showroom in Kyoto. We spent the day peeling back the family and design history that led up to Kaikado’s current collection, which has grown from a single air-tight tea caddy, invented over 150 years ago.
Kaikado was always strong in the local market, but when an editor from Wallpaper Magazine noticed their work a few years ago, the collection of tea caddies grew as collaborations with Monocle and Jasper Morrison popped up. The interest from major design hubs in Paris, New York and London put Kaikado onto the global map.
The progression is something I have enjoyed watching over the last two years. It seems like every time I email or see Taka he has a new round of exciting developments. Whether it was a recent exhibition with internationally renowned photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto at Pace Gallery (in London & New York), the VA acquisition, or his upcoming show at Atelier Courbet this Spring (which will be coordinated with my show at the Leica Boutique)…everything Taka touches seems to turn to gold. Ironic for a man who works exclusively with brass, tin, and copper. But the success has not changed much behind the doors of the studio. Taka refuses to ramp up production to meet demand. Quality will not dip even a single percent as offers for greater distribution emerge. Kaikado’s waitlist for orders remains steady, with a 4 month wait for any piece in the shop.
The future looks bright for Kaikado, as they have broken out of the mold of being “just craftsmen.” Their pieces, their approach, and their unwritten future will be that of the artist. In November, when I was in Kyoto, Taka and I discussed this over dinner. Every artist must develop an artistic mind along with a business mind. As much as we would love to work away in our studios with no thoughts of the commercial world, every artist has to come around to the idea that someone out there will want to buy their work. Taka said that he uses two mentors to balance the artist and the businessman in him. In fact, you guys were already introduced to his artistic mentor, Shuji Nakagawa, in my earlier article “Shuji Nakagawa’s World.” From where I stand it looks like Taka has chosen his mentors and collaborators wisely. This slow and steady approach to international markets is something that often gets lost in the prospect of more money. As Kaikado has grown their reputation internationally, they carry along the integrity and soft power influence that is bringing the treasures of Japan to the shores of Europe and the Americas.
If you are interested in seeing Kaikado’s work in person, please join me at any of the following locations:
We will be visiting Kaikado during the upcoming Kyoto Workshop this Fall, so if you are interested have a look first to see what you will be in for.
Congratulations once again to Taka, his family, and the entire team at Kaikado!