Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Best Miniature Shop in the WORLD

The pictures in this post are from August of 2010, but as the title of this post implies, the content merits a belated post....

In July of 2010, I was able to fulfill a life-long dream and got to go to Japan. Typical of any miniaturist, I had to find a shop to visit while I was there. With the help of my boyfriend's mother - who is from Tokyo - we found TYA Kitchen. My boyfriend and I call TYA Kitchen the best miniature shop in the world. Let me tell you why...

TYA Kitchen is located in Tokyo's Arakawa ward. While the shop carries work from other Japanese artists, metal work by Kawai Yukio-san and tiny food by Kawai Asako-san are the showcase. (I'm so sorry but I don't remember his wife's name, but when I find it, I will edit this post.) Not only is the quality outstanding, but these people exhibited the legendary politeness and generosity of the Japanese people. They allowed myself and the 6 other people I was with invade their tiny shop. They showed me their workshop and how to use the tiny food molds that I bought. That summer, Tokyo experienced a serious heat wave, so I look awful in the pictures because of the resulting sweaty-ness. We were given cold mugi-cha - which is a roasted barley tea that cures hotness like nothing else I've experienced - and cookies while we shopped. 
This is the storefront. I hope this helps you find it.

I am ecstatic...sweaty, but ecstatic.

Tiny Restaurant

Tiny Food by Asako Kawai-san
This booth shows more of the metal work done by Kawai Yukio-san.

Kawai Yukio-san, metal works artist, doing a demonstration for a bunch of gaijin.

This is a structure they had on display.

Kawai Yukio, center, and Kawai Asako, left. I will find out her name...

This is a pot he was working on when we were there.

I bought this cake because it had musk melon - a melon we can't get in the U.S. - on it. It's the little yellowish-green sliver with a green/white rind on the left side. The pan from the previous picture, a strainer, and white metal plate also made by Yukio Kawai is in the background.

This is a better picture.

Here are some of the things I bought from TYA (left to right, back to front): blue canisters, green scale, watering can, metal spatula, tin can, pot with lid, white metal plate (other white metal pieces, not pictured), plastic take-out containers, and blue kettle. The cheese on the plate is not from TYA; I have no idea why I took a picture with it...

We left waving and bowing and were totally overwhelmed with the kindness of TYA Kitchen.

I ended up spending a lot more money than I should have, but all of the pieces were of the best quality and I was more than happy to support such nice, talented people. I'll never forget my visit there; I hope to go again the next time I go to Tokyo. If anyone out there wants to go - and you should - here is the address and website info:

TYA Kitchen
5-13-2 Nishiogu Arakawaku Tokyo
116-0011 Japan

The thing with finding places in Tokyo...well, it's tricky. I had the benefit of a native Japanese-speaker who grew up in Tokyo guiding me, so I just followed. However, police stationed at koban - police boxes - can help you. Most Japanese have working knowledge of English. Learn as much Japanese as you can before you go and don't be afraid to use it. The effort is appreciated there. Attempting to speak Japanese seemed to break the ice, and you end up communicating with both Japanese and English.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Random Thought

In the previous post, I mentioned grab bags from miniature shows. I'm a sucker for them, and I tend to be disappointed with them more often than not. Has anyone ever noticed the interesting smells of miniatures grab bags? It's a mix of the "old" smell, potpourri, and dust. I suppose that is what all of our craft stashes smell like. It's funny how I focus on the visual and tactile characteristics of minis, and I forget about the aromatic dimension. It's a very powerful sense that is neglected a lot, I think. I must be wrong. Is there anyone out there that includes scent in their miniatures? Is Jane Freeman one of those miniaturists? I've only seen pictures. Has anyone experienced the "grab bag smell"? Blogs have now created an outlet for those weird thoughts that probably should have stayed quiet in my head.

Plant Rack and Some Other Things

Although I've never had much interest in plants, I have acquired a lot of plant/garden paraphernalia from grab bags and the like. I got a mystery kit for a potting bench in one of those bags and altered it a little. I'm a big fan of using terracotta pots for shelf risers in real life, so that made its way into my minis. I've been collecting a lot of plants from Clara's Cuties, but didn't have a place for them. Today, I finished a plant rack from Joann Swanson's potting bench project (June 2011 post). In an effort to refrain from gushing about how great Joann Swanson is, I will show you my pictures right away.

Here are some other minis I've made. This is a box kit from Tom Walden. I haven't finished the wood, but I sanded it per the directions. The wood is so smooth and the kit went together easily. If you ever run across his kits, I highly recommend them.

The next image shows potatoes with eyes...literally. This is from a Kiva Atkinson project in American Miniaturist a while ago. I've arranged them in a bowl by Jason Feltrope that I bought at the Independent Miniature Artisans 2011 Show and Sale. I had never encountered his work before, but having experience making ceramics, I am awed a his eggshell-thin pieces. Even better, they were affordable for me. 
The pictures aren't great, but maybe my photography skill will improve along with this blog.  I've really enjoyed making these things and sharing them. It takes my mind off of a sometimes depressing job search, and considering this is a non-chemical method, that says a lot. :) Viva la minis!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Japanese System Kitchen

My current project is a contemporary Japanese house made from the Two-Storey Duplex kit I purchased from years ago. The following shows a picture of my inspiration - a house that I saw on my trip to Tokyo in 2010.

 This house will contain a kitchen and bath on the first floor and a washitsu room (traditional, multipurpose room) with tatami on the second floor. I am attempting to replicate a Re-ment version of the Japanese system kitchen in mat board.

I am trying to make this with working cabinet doors and drawers, so I have completed interior partitions for these. I've made progress since I've taken these pictures, so more images are on the way.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Some of the Minis I've Made (kits and scratch)

Hi. I'm Laura. I've been obsessed with little things since I was 5 or something. I don't have a lot to share about other things, so blogging has never been something that I felt compelled to do. However, I can talk about minis... Below are some of the things I've made. The wheelbarrows were made based off of a pattern in a Joanne Swanson article from Dollhouse Miniatures. I made 14 or so for a N.A.M.E. swap years ago. The wheels are bought, but the rest is wood cut, sanded, and painted by me. The hats are from Cynthia Howe kits for her Mad Hatters series of classes. The paint tubes are foil and paint, made for my first N.A.M.E. swap. These are old pictures, but I have recently realized that I don't document the stuff I make...and should. I hope this blog can be a place where I document what I make - the documenting being a motivator for a slow miniaturist. Dozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu! ("Please take care of me" in Japanese.)