When I was asked by topiary expert Jake Hobson who is the owner of Niwaki; ( a company who imports amazing Japanese products into the UK ) , if I would take some shots of some of their beautiful products, I knew I’d love them before I’d seen any of them as the Japanese aesthetic is very close to my artistic heart, but I wasn’t quite expecting to fall in love with everything he sent me…including a hand forged axe and a golden spade!
Japanese gardens are landscapes; microcosms of nature, and the trees are all shaped to fit into those landscapes. The name Niwaki (ni-whacky) means ‘garden tree’, but as ever within Japanese culture, it implies far more than just that, which is the very reason behind the company’s name…it implies more than one thing…
Jake spent time working in Japan and is married to Keiko who is Japanese, so unsurprisingly virtually everything on their site has been put to practical purpose by both of them at some point, and that’s basically how their range has organically grown. Jake was given a pair of Okatsune garden scissors on his first day of pruning in Japan, and is still using them today, ( and apparently everyone in Japan who gardens has a pair of Okatsune secateurs too! ).
So you can probably gauge by now how exciting it was to discover and investigate everything I was going to shoot…
I’m a very practical person, and live in a sort of indoor/outdoor way at home…inside the house I always have to feel connected to the outside, so ( much to the chagrin of my partner when he comes round ), I have to have the back door open from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed….whatever the season ( which doesn’t impress the cat in Winter! ).
I love popping out to the garden whenever I feel like it which often leads to impromptu pruning, digging, snipping ( often in my pyjamas ), and as I have a lifelong love of design the combination of very practical and very beautiful is my ideal…it makes the whole process of existing so much more pleasant…
My father was employed by a Japanese company most of his working life, and I was always fascinated by the gifts he was given when he came back from a trip, and the things he brought back for us…
It all seemed so different from anything you’d pick up in a cynical tourist spot over here…such care and precision had been put into every part of the product, the packaging, even the wrapping. I remember beautiful boxes containing delicate sweets and exquisite scarves for my mum, but with an aesthetic which I couldn’t quite get my head round…the designs were so alien to me ( I was heavily into Laura Ashley at the time! ), but I couldn’t ignore the quality, even aged 13…the quality of all the Japanese gifts my Dad brought back was exquisite…
So, for this shoot I wanted to echo the beauty of the hand made, the practical, the homely, and then combine it with my own style and a sense of the Japanese aesthetic… ( you can have a look at my Wabi Sabi board on Pinterest here )
Niwaki started off with just gardening tools but then extended their range to incorporate beautiful products for around the home…so below you can see what I came up with bearing all this in mind…Above: Okatsune-ikenobo scissors
Below: Japanese Wakasaya-bonsai Scissors
below: Japanese Saitaro Tailor’s shears
above: Japanese Fabric Snips
below: Japanese Hand Forged Tweezers
Above and below: Japanese Yoshihide pencil sharpener
Above and below: Japanese Ikeuchi Craft Knife
Above: Kanekoma Higonokami folding knife
Below: Kotoh Folding Knife with Quince handle
above and below: Japanese Fruit Knife
Above and below: Japanese Kotodo Cans
…all these canisters are contained in the largest one; such a great example of economic and useful designBelow: Cray-Pas Colouring Crayons
One of my absolute favourite things of the whole shoot was this extraordinary Colour Encyclopaedia below, which consists of 9 different volumes of colour…( 90 artist’s pencils in total ), and which have the most poetical names and unbelievably beautiful colours like ’Sea Fog’ and ‘Pigeon Grey’ …they are undoubtably the most beautiful set of coloured pencils I have ever seen, and I keep opening them like I would a precious jewellery box. I could look at them for hours and just feel happy…to be honest I’m not sure if I could actually bring myself to use them; they’re such an exquisite piece of art themselves!
Above: Tangerine HankcachiAbove and below: Tengui Face Towels ( cherry blossom ) ( rain ) Below: Japanese Tobisho secateurs
Above: Genzo Snips
Below: Okatsune fruit snips
Above: Japanese Tobisho secateursAbove: Japanese Sugi Tape ( bottom left ), Garden Coir Twine ( centre ) and
Below: Black Japanese Shuronawa garden twine with Red Choki scissors with Red Choki scissors ( by the way ‘choki’ in Japanese means the sound scissors make when cutting! )Above and below: Japanese Splitting Hatchet
Below: Mamiya Hand Forged Large Trowel http://www.niwaki.com/store/mamiya-trowel/Below: Japanese Weeding Hoe
And last but not least one of the best spades ever…this Japanese ‘golden’ spade
…but now briefly back to the snips, because here’s a chance to win this beautiful pair of Wakasaya garden scissors…
All you have to do is follow @niwakijake on Instagram, repost this image below from either the Niwaki account or my account over the next week ( last day for entering is next Thursday 24th September ), tagging it with @niwakijake and @5ftinf and use the hashtag #niwakiscissorsgiveaway
…and here they are in action!
I was so, so impressed by the quality of everything I photographed for Niwaki, and I strongly urge you to have a look at all the stuff over on Jake’s website here as a lot of the things would make the most perfect Christmas presents ( that axe for example…who wouldn’t want that in their stocking!! ), There is also a Pinterest board here with more of my images, as well as a Steller story here.
AND… Niwaki are also offereing a 10% discount on orders this month if you use the code: 5ftinfniwaki