Sunday 2 March 2014

Travels in Japan: The Wonderful World of Ghibli

There's something magical in Mitaka! Disembark from the train, take a short, suspense-filled stroll through some leafy suburbs and you will be in for a real treat...
OMG! It's Totoro!
...because Mitaka is home to the truly amazing Ghibli museum. But, it's more than a museum, it's a fabulously joyful Ghibli microcosm with fantastical animations, models, artwork, topsy-turvy architecture and lots of opportunities to encounter well loved characters.

Although a supposedly grown up woman (whatever that means), I love cartoons! From the silly crude humour of Family Guy and American Dad to the schmaltzy cheese of Disney (yes, that's me happily singing along in an off key manner to Tangled!). So, as soon as we started talking about Japanese travels Ghibli was top of the list.

Just thinking about this day brings a smile to my face as I remember how emotional I felt to see this wonderful body of creative work presented in such an original, interactive and loving way. On arrival you are welcomed into a lively warm and friendly homage to Totoro, Ponyo, Kiki and their many companions. The spaces that resonated most for me were those which replicated artists studios filled with inks and drawings, books of inspiration and bound rough sketches for the films. Beautiful and so inspiring!

It's not permitted to take photos or recordings within the museum and rightly so! Such a special place can only really be appreciated in person. It's an incredibly immersive experience and I can most thoroughly recommend the trip, even if you do have to travel across the world to get there ;)

I'm leaving you with a handful of photos outside the museum (just a tantalising taster) and a promise for tales of imperial castles and woodland adventures to come.

If you've read this post wondering what on earth I'm talking about, why not give one of these fabulous films a try?! From the story of a girl with magical abilities to communicate with cats through to harrowing tales about war there really is something for everyone and they are all truly beautiful.
Happy times in Ghibli land :)

Friday 14 February 2014

Travels in Japan: Tokyo

Way back in November in the distant and far off year of 2013, my lovely husband and I packed our matching suitcases (really!) and took to the skies for an amazing asian adventure. Two weeks to experience as much of Japan as we possibly could... awesome. Bring on the green tea.

First stop? Tokyo, of course!

Sake barrells in the late afternoon sun at Meiji
I am one of those breakfast obsessed people. I love breaking the fast and woe betide any one or thing that stands between me and my sacred morning meal. No breakfast has ever been as fine, fresh and sumptuous as the one we feasted upon in Sushi Bun. A killer combination of jetlag, burstingly full itinerary and let's face it sheer lack of willpower meant that we didn't quite manage to get up for the 5am registration for the tuna auctions. Nevertheless we saw some beautiful early morning rays amongst the small side-streets of Tsukiji fish market whilst deliberating on our brekkie venue. Sushi Bun was all we dreamed of, a tiny haven of delicious fishy delights. Sitting at the end of the counter we chomped our way through a set menu of meltingly tender morsels served alongside the obligatory miso and green tea. A phenomenal start to the day.

We knew we were headed in the right direction...

Not tuna auction early, but early nonetheless ;)
Good morning Tsukiji
What can one do in the midst of a mighty modern metropolis on a beautiful day with a belly full of lush fatty tuna? Too many things to mention in one blog post certainly. What would I recommend? Taking a stroll, finding some peace and being completely blown away by just how zen the Japanese gardens are. Photos cannot do this experience justice.

Hamarikyu Gardens, just a small sushi filled roll away from Tsukiji (thankfully)

A-mazing right?!

Even better, when one tires of the strolling just keep your eyes peeled for one of the teahouses. Take your shoes off, take a load off and order a bowl of beauteous pure green matcha. Yum. What a treat.

From here (Hamarikyu Gardens) you can take a boat journey. Woohoo! What's not to love? Getting to see the city by water and check out the architecture. Count us in...

Round about now, you should be starting to feel a bit peckish. Since you've only been in the country a couple of days what could beat heading to a rather splendid luncheon with a friend near the imperial palace gardens? We couldn't think of anything we'd like better either! Lunch on the terrace of a grand hotel next to the water with rain beating down atmospherically besides us was very beautiful. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear more about the country in which we would be travelling. As fate would have it my friend grew up in the town which was next on our itinerary and was tickled to hear we were heading that way. We also got to cover important topics of debate such as jewellery-making, cooking and running before we had to part ways. Ah, such a happy memory.

After feasting like kings (again!) there are so many post gastronomic delights on offer. Towering emporiums of technology at Akhibara, hitting the shops at Roppongi Hills or Daimaru, art at the Mori Tower (where we took in the high culture of Snoopy) or a bit more contemplative peace and cultural amazement in the various temples... We did a bit of it all...

Feeling exhausted after ambitiously bombing around the world's largest city? You bet! But the night is young, as they say. So, why not head to Harajuku for some hipster shopping then see about squeezing in a completely phenomenal never-ending Teppanyaki dinner whilst looking out at the Tokyo Dome with another wonderful friend. We ate and laughed so much! It was such a pleasure :) This meeting was a little more instructional too and we were urged from then on to incorporate 'Domo domo' as a way of saying thank you into our teeny Japanese word bank. It seems insufficient as thanks for such a great evening!

So, if any of you guys survive that onslaught of pure awesomeness, you know what you have to do next...

Seriously! There is only one option open to you at this momentous point in your journey. For relaxing times...? Oh YES, we did. Park Hyatt Tokyo, New York Bar. The ultimate Lost in Translation / Bill Murray pilgrimage. It was fabulous. We sat at the bar, we watched live music, we viewed the beauty of the city lights below stretching blinking and twinkling into the distance and we fell in love with Tokyo a little bit more.


Ps. In case you hadn't guessed, this makes up not just one of our days in Tokyo but a composite of the 4 nights we spent there. It's a long post but we do a lot on our holidays us Silversmiths. Coming up... Totoro (!), castles, woods, traditional inns, kobe beef, Kyoto & much more!

Sunday 22 December 2013

Back to Base-ics: Instant Gratification


I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, and really I'm not complaining since it's such a joy, but metalsmithing is often a rather slow process. Especially for me, as a bit of an amateur and *whispers* uptight perfectionist.

So, a couple of weeks ago whilst between a couple of projects and on a night when my attempts at being zen and experimental were mostly making a mess (and validating my careful planning and painstakingly slow making practices) I decided to indulge in a quick fix. I wanted to make something simple. I wanted to make something quick. I wanted to hit something.... So, I did.

Reader, I confess, I loved it! I got to do some sawing (my one true love), to use the big fierce blow torch and I got to give this piece a good bash. Yes, that is the technical term.

It wasn't, as you may have guessed, fine jewellery. It was this simple hammered dish.

Rustic, yes, but check out the colours and texture. Perfect for displaying little treasures too.



Monday 9 December 2013

Back to Base-ics: Forging Forward

I'm going to start this post with a rather dirty word...


Yes, that's right, the learner metal-workers grubby little friend. Over the years I have developed quite a soft spot for copper (don't worry silver, you're still my number one!). It is cheap and cheerful, soft and pliable and reveals all manner of beautiful colours when heated. Lovely. However, we're not entirely bosom pals because it also has a nasty habit - extreme mucky-ness.

For someone who has always loved arty crafty pursuits, I have a little secret... I dislike getting my hands dirty!

Personal issues aside, copper has been fantastic for experimenting techniques in class. This term that meant getting to grips with the ancient art of forging. I was pretty excited about learning something with such a long established practice. It also meant getting to do a lot of hammering, great for releasing the build up of those day to day tensions.

Our mission was to use a single thick piece of copper wire and create a fibula brooch. We all set to work using the rolling mill to taper out the brooch end and a good old hammer and stake combo to stretch out the front of the piece, annealing like crazy in between when the work hardened. It was quite a slow process but ultimately a rewarding one, like much metal working. I've kept my brooch fairly rustic and haven't polished the metal. Now all I need is to find a good sealant (any recommendations?) to avoid copper staining and a nice chunky knit to set it off!

What do you think of my Viking-vogue?

Happy advent to any advent types!

Sunday 6 October 2013


It's true! Spooning! Not just something fun to do to keep warm through those long dark winter months. By which of course I'm referring to the fiery glow of one's silversmithing torch ;)

Yes beauteous readers I have only gone and made my very first ever silver spoon. And I'm really rather pleased with it even if I do say so myself.

And so, I could tell you about my process, I could share the pitfalls of the design. I am very happy to do these things, but on this occasion I'm going to put my metal where my mouth is and let the spoon do the talking (pictures galore below).

The one thing you need to know is that this was inspired by my very dear & wonderful friends who created something much more precious out of love - their firstborn son - to whom this piece is dedicated and belongs.

Peace, love & spoons all. SSx