Ūmei Boutique Showcases Handcrafted Pottery by Japanese Makers

Late last year, Minneapolis home goods store Ūmei Boutique opened with a selection of minimalist, handcrafted home goods from (and inspired by) Japan. This weekend, the boutique kicks off an ongoing series of collaborations with Japanese artists with a special in-store event featuring Miki Sakurada, a New York–based potter originally from Japan. The emerging maker says her functional creations are inspired by food and everyday life. Despite their beauty, her plates, sake and tea cups, bowls, and other vessels are intended to be used, and not just displayed on a shelf  to collect dust.

Keeping with this intention, Ūmei will be showing how Sakurada’s pieces work with Japanese food and drink during this Saturday’s free event. Ūmei owner Susan Brouillette says she discovered Sukurada through friends in the art and architecture world in New York. “They said [my husband and I] had to meet her, so we arranged to meet at her place on the Lower East Side. It was love at first sight,” Brouillette says.

Brouillette describes Sukurada’s aesthetic as “warm and artisanal yet functional—you will want to pick them up and use them,” she says. Her pieces pair perfectly with Japanese donabes by 200-year-old maker Nagatani-en, which will also be highlighted in Saturday’s event.

Donabes are traditional Japanese clay pots that are typically utilized in a communal meal prepared right in front of the dinner party. (Brouillette predicts donabe will be the next big Japanese food trend.) Brouillette says she first experienced donabe many years ago in Japan when she lived with a Japanese family, but was reminded of it a couple years ago by having it again at her Japanese girlfriend’s home. “They make you a better cook, because they heat food up more gently and hold the heat longer, bring out meats’ and vegetables’ best flavors, and makes meats more tender,” she says.

Clay Plate by Miki Sakurada (image courtesy the artist)

The Nagatani-en donabe gets its edge from the clay it’s made from, which is dug from a stratum that once formed the ancient bed of Lake Biwa in Iga, Japan. It contains microorganisms that break down during the high-temperature firing process in the kiln, and tiny air bubbles form in the walls of the pot. This helps to retain heat while cooking, improving the flavor and texture of the ingredients inside.

During the event, Sukurada—also said to be a fantastic cook—will be cooking authentic Japanese cuisine with Nagatani-en donabes, and attendees will have the opportunity to taste Chanko Nabe (Japanese hot pot) and Gobo Gohan (a rice and burdock dish), as well as Japanese pickles.

Look for future events with Japanese artists highlighting Japanese culture to come at Ūmei. “We always want to share what’s new and interesting in Japanese design and culture,” says Brouillette. “We like to think we are Japanese design and culture ambassadors.”

Saturday from 6-9 p.m. @ Ūmei Boutique, 903 N. 5th St., Minneapolis, shopumei.com

by Jahna Peloquin
February 21, 2018

Late last year, Minneapolis home goods store Ūmei Boutique opened with a selection of minimalist, handcrafted home goods from (and inspired by) Japan. This weekend, the boutique kicks off an ongoing series of collaborations with Japanese artists with a special in-store event featuring Miki Sakurada, a New York–based potter originally from Japan. The emerging maker says her functional creations are inspired by food and everyday life. Despite their beauty, her plates, sake and tea cups, bowls, and other vessels are intended to be used, and not just displayed on a shelf  to collect dust.

Keeping with this intention, Ūmei will be showing how Sakurada’s pieces work with Japanese food and drink during this Saturday’s free event. Ūmei owner Susan Brouillette says she discovered Sukurada through friends in the art and architecture world in New York. “They said [my husband and I] had to meet her, so we arranged to meet at her place on the Lower East Side. It was love at first sight,” Brouillette says.

Brouillette describes Sukurada’s aesthetic as “warm and artisanal yet functional—you will want to pick them up and use them,” she says. Her pieces pair perfectly with Japanese donabes by 200-year-old maker Nagatani-en, which will also be highlighted in Saturday’s event.

Donabes are traditional Japanese clay pots that are typically utilized in a communal meal prepared right in front of the dinner party. (Brouillette predicts donabe will be the next big Japanese food trend.) Brouillette says she first experienced donabe many years ago in Japan when she lived with a Japanese family, but was reminded of it a couple years ago by having it again at her Japanese girlfriend’s home. “They make you a better cook, because they heat food up more gently and hold the heat longer, bring out meats’ and vegetables’ best flavors, and makes meats more tender,” she says.

Clay Plate by Miki Sakurada (image courtesy the artist)

The Nagatani-en donabe gets its edge from the clay it made from, which is dug from a stratum that once formed the ancient bed of Lake Biwa in Iga, Japan. It contains microorganisms that break down during the high-temperature firing process in the kiln, and tiny air bubbles form in the walls of the pot. This helps to retain heat while cooking, improving the flavor and texture of the ingredients inside.

During the event, Sukurada—also said to be a fantastic cook—will be cooking authentic Japanese cuisine with Nagatani-en donabes, and attendees will have the opportunity to taste Chanko Nabe (Japanese hot pot) and Gobo Gohan (a rice and burdock dish), as well as Japanese pickles.

Look for future events with Japanese artists highlighting Japanese culture to come at Ūmei. “We always want to share what’s new and interesting in Japanese design and culture,” says Brouillette. “We like to think we are Japanese design and culture ambassadors.”

Saturday from 6-9 p.m. @ Ūmei Boutique, 903 N. 5th St., Minneapolis, shopumei.com

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