Minimalism: it is a hallmark of the Japanese design and poetic aesthetic. “It is night: imagine, if you will, a path leading to a hut lost in a wildly growing arbor, shaded by the basho, a wide-leafed banana tree rare to Japan. A sliding door opens: an eager-eyed man in monk’s robes steps out, surveys his shadowy thicket and the purple outline of a distant mountain…” So begins Lucien Stryk’s introduction to On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho, his depiction of the first great haiku poet—who would later change his name to Basho in honor of the tree given him by a disciple—as lush as the poet’s minimalistic verse. There was an equivalent in the Currey & Company showroom during High Point Market last month that I can’t wait to share with you!
The Brevity of Minimalism with Lush Undertones
Though the very idea of a lush minimalism seems oxymoronic, Basho’s poems and the designs I saw by Hiroshi Koshitaka, which launched during High Point, prove the two can exist hand-in-hand. Koshitaka, a Japanese designer, presented a number of fixtures that have both natural references and pared-down lines, the twin attributes ubiquitous in his home country’s writing and design.
Below are a few examples so you can visually see what I mean:
The Kiyamacki lantern with its crosshatched lines running across its translucent panels is a veritable haiku of design.
The Tsukiyo pendant is subtly ornamented with the shape of bamboo stems.
“How can an attentive soul not be drawn in by nature?” Hiroshi asked when I interviewed him during Market. “After all, outside nearly every window is stand upon stand of bamboo!” He is excited about his first new releases for Currey & Company in 17 years, his sights already set on the new items he is designing to be released next Spring.
His first collections, which he developed when Robert was at the helm, consisted of furniture so he told me how excited he is to turn his attention to lighting. When I asked him why Japanese design is most often so clean and beautiful, he answered, “It is simply in our DNA.” Brownlee, who has spent a fair amount of time in Japan over the last few years, agrees: “I have come to the conclusion that as far as the Japanese aesthetic goes, westerners living outside of Japan tend to be pretty clumsy or outright inappropriate in their appropriations of Japanese motifs.”
This is not a passing through, he explains, as he had considered the dilemma at length: “I really have worried over this. In my own process of learning about Japanese design and presentation, mostly having to do with plants, my most mortifying mistakes and embarrassing moments have been when I thought I understood a concept, and in fact have not, at all. With a collection of items, offered to the public, the potential for such embarrassment was extraordinary, at least from my point of view. I did not want to disappoint my Japanese friends and associates with our actions.”
Brownlee notes that one of his favorite Japanese proverbs came to mind when he was considering who would be the best fit for introducing the Japanese aesthetic into their collections: “I thought of ‘Yoraba Taijyu No Kage’ or ‘If you need a tree for shelter, look for a big one,’” he explains; “which, loosely translated, means ‘When you ask for help, ask the appropriate person to provide it.’” And so he did. “With that thought in mind, it was time to talk to Hiroshi-San, as I knew he had a depth and a grounding in Japanese design and an understanding of Japanese aesthetics greater than I or any of my team were likely to develop in this lifetime.”
Grounding is such an important word here and you do see it in Hiroshi’s designs and in Basho’s poetry. It’s a tremendous talent melded with a deep soul that can accomplish a sense of finely wrought aesthetics in as pared-down a fixture as Hiroshi creates and as few words as Basho uses, as is evidenced in this haiku:
wings curve into
I encourage you to take a few meditative moments and experience more of his poetic compositions in the video below before we launch into the other highlights from High Point.
Best Sellers During High Point Market
Having Marjorie Skouras hold court in the showroom during Market created such a vivacious vibe—she was like Basho’s butterfly, drawing people to her in the most natural way. Isn’t it easy to see why given the above image of her in the lovely ensemble she’s wearing standing beneath the Agave Americana chandelier? This was one of our best sellers during Market, as was the Agave Americana wall sconce.
The Monarch three-drawer chest was also one of the best sellers during Market; and of our popular products released in new finishes, the Gingko wall sconce below in distressed silver leaf was a big hit.
Highlights from Market
Did you hear the news that Robert Currey was inducted into the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame during a star-studded vent on October 22nd? There were four other inductees that evening, each chosen for their contributions to the growth and development of the home furnishings industry in America. As you can see from the above photo with Donny Osmond and Michael Amini, there was buoyant spirit aplenty during the fête.
James Swan added a shot of adrenaline to the showroom activities during the afternoons when he held his “Designer on the Street” podcasts. The founder of Million Dollar Decorating provided some of the most intelligent entertainment to date in the showroom, and you all know we’re pretty darned smart as a general rule!
And it wouldn’t be a proper look-back at our High Point highs if we didn’t mention the fabulous food prepared by Anna Thrower and her team, though no one would accuse her of producing minimalism in her gastronomic artistry. One delicacy was captured so beautifully above by our resident photographer Beth Tilley Green. I loved coming across this image in the Market coverage photos because someone turned the tables on the effervescent young woman by snapping this shot of her. She is responsible for all of the beautiful photos taken during Market that you see in this post.
The Potterton Pop-Up Shop was as resounding a success as it was in April so we round out this review of all things HP by saluting Clare Jameson and her sidekick Simon Barton for wowing the crowd with their knowledge of design and architectural literature. I’m ending with a bit of a tease with the photo below of Clare with none other than Bunny Williams, who will be debuting a collection with Currey & Company this coming spring. Well, it looks like that’s a wrap, design-o-philes; we hope you had as much fun as we did exploring the minimalism to come!
Saxon Henry also blogs as The Modern Salonnière.