Japanese design inspirations are at the heart of London gallery SoShiro’s debut exhibition
Opening in London’s Marylebone, SoShiro is a new gallery dedicated to design, craft and lifestyle, showing a collection that pays tribute to Japanese design and craft. Founded by architect and designer Shiro Muchiri, the gallery aims at fostering creative dialogues between international artists and craftsmen, preserving and innovating traditional techniques.
‘Having spent my life working in the design industry, I wanted to establish a platform that celebrates all kinds of aesthetics, not just those from a certain provenance, as there are so many stories to tell: stories with real people at their core,’ says Muchiri. Born in Kenya, she moved to Milan to study design and later to London, setting up her architecture practice in 2000. Last year, Muchiri relocated to a five-storey Georgian townhouse in Marylebone to present her vision of a culturally-diverse offering of lifestyle objects.
As well as pieces designed by Muchiri herself, SoShiro presents unique collaborations between artists and craftsmen sourced globally, collaborating with specialist artisans and makers. After working with North Kenyan craftspeople on her first collection (titled Pok as a reference to the Pokot community who worked on the furniture pieces and accessories, which were designed by Muchiri), her second collection is based on the collaboration between a Japanese master craftsman and selected Italian manufacturers. ‘What we are doing is working with synergies,’ explains Muchiri, who has been working with her network to source the most inspiring craftsmen and skilled makers all over the world.
Titled Ainu (and launched for London Craft Week), the latest collection presents the work of Japanese carver and sculptor Toru Kaizawa in a functional light, through a series of lifestyle objects and furniture that bring his artistry to life. The starting point of the collection is the sacred relationship between the Ainu people and their forests and nature, which was referenced by Kaizawa through a minimalist rendition of a fish owl eye motif. The design was applied to a series of porcelain objects as well an embroidered collection for the home featuring pieces inspired by the ritual of drinking tea and gathering around the table. Another series includes larger furniture pieces designed by Muchiri featuring a wooden panel, which was carved by Kaizawa in the same owl-inspired motif.
Inspired by a new approach to wellness in the home, the furniture pieces include a portable herb garden and a wellness cabinet – the latter made in Italy from eco-friendly engineered HDF wood and steel. Muchiri’s cabinets are available in two sizes and feature grey and red lacquered wood with a utilitarian metal interior (imagined as a large-scale medicine cabinet). Part of the Ainu collection exhibition is also a unique carved piece by Kaizawa, recreating the shape of a traditional Japanese kimono in wood. ’It’s incredibly exciting to bring these two very different practices together and see what happens when they merge,’ she continues.
’I wanted to establish a platform that celebrates all kinds of aesthetics, not just those from a certain provenance, as there are so many stories to tell’
The top floor of the gallery was transformed into an events space offering guests and collectors a different point of view of Muchiri’s vision and inspirations. To celebrate the Ainu collection, she has enlisted sake sommelier Shane Jones to lead a series of tastings, creating an engaging experience that adds an intriguing layer to the design work. §