Japan by Design

The Big Apple hosts The Preserved Plum: The International Contemporary Furniture Fair always runs concurrently with the National Stationery Show, and this year’s unexpected treat was the Japan Pavilion, an exquisite shopping exhibition, with a highly-worthy catalogue. Even before I saw umpteen objets I’d love to have {very organic white porcelain plates, a heavenly humidifier, semi-constructed fashion-forward furoshiki}, I had been drawn to ripples of Japonaiserie upstairs at the Stationery Show. I am loving this zensibility.

At the Tiselle booth, my favorite cards were the Japanese motifs. I also liked their line illustrations of lanterns and birdcages, letterpress-printed in a single color… though I think of these motifs as more Chinese. I might have just been reacting to the raucousness of Manhattan and the glare of the show, but these cards seem so civilized without being sweet or somber. Let’s hear it for a mood of quiet festivity.

At Chewing the Cud, “reusable fabric gift wrap” squares made their debut, printed on organic cotton. The pattern shown here was my instant winner: deco roses meet washi-paper surprise balls. All we had to do to set up this shot was move the tidily tied package over to the table. Voilà, Viola {the proprietress} did knot disappoint! You can see the Give Luck pattern, not Japonesque but subtly sevenly, on Chewing the Cud’s site. A lovely, and we hope sustainable, sentiment on a package or a pillow.

Over at eieio, oh-so-unique {and i hope u know by now that i do not use unique lightly} giftwrap designs continued to morph and multiply. Jean Orlebeke’s Japanese-y patterns include Geisha, Tamarind, Flowerpop, and Sugarplum, all of which you can see here. On a large gift, the Flex pattern with trompe l’oeil twine is zensational. Some of Jean’s original patterns look so great on a package, that she has had boxes covered – on both cubes and flats – so the pattern remains intact and the box enjoys a productive and decorative life. They are xoxcellent. {A little play on the Play pattern, do you see?} At the show, Jean introduced a hanging pad of wrapping paper called Ready-to-Wrap, over which I am rhapsodizing right now. Eighteen different sheets, perforated and protected, fabulously flat. I could almost travel with this, for my impromptu wrapping reqs.

At Loop, Elissa Barbieri’s patterns simply make me whoop with delight. They are particularly beautiful in combination. See them on the wall of her booth below, and on the wall of a garden right here. Imagine a big box wrapped in one pattern, presented with a card in another pattern. Look at them up close on her site. Elissa’s philosophy is a haiku-like ode to responsible design. May the links of her loop be strong!

Cherry blossoms {sakura} were quietly blooming on invitations and note cards and wrapping paper. A friend recently returned from Japan with photos of  manhole covers with cherry-blossom motifs! At Smudge Ink, I was an instant fan of two Japonesque letterpress-printed designs, the parasol-with-sakura and the unfurled fan – so nice for fanmail. Smudge has also expanded their line of reusable market totes, which they call shoppers. Several of them have big botanical patterns; in addition to being reusable they themselves are fully recyclable {in case you shop till your bag drops?}.

Cartesian Graphics continues to expand their line of cards and gift enclosures with pinked swatches of vintage fabric, finished with a letterpress-printed frame {which makes a lovely impression on the Strathmore Pastelle card, might we add}. Here’s a card called Red Kanji. And scroll below to see a paragon of parasols on a Cartesian invitation. And, just below that, parasols on parade in Manhattan close to midnight. I don’t know the Japanese word for parasol, but I do know that the English word comes directly from the French, meaning “against the sun,” just the way a parapluie is “against the rain” and a paravent is “against the wind.” End of lesson, end of post, end of reportage from The Big Apple. This afternoon, I’m off to Philadelphia, where tonight I will hear Michael Bierut speak at an AIGA event. I will report on the morrow!

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Comments (2)

  1. Posted by French Basketeer on 05.21.09 at 11:33 pm

    Toute a fait correct, Alyson! Great etymology! Thanks for the photos and the posts these last few days et bon weekend!!

  2. Posted by Julie Salestrom on 06.6.09 at 2:13 am

    Thank you for taking us to the stationery show! You are a wonderful tour guide!

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