In January of this year I embarked on a mission. A mission to transform an empty West End condo into an inviting home. Creating an environment that inspires conversation and connection is a daunting task, but with the help of a team of designers, makers, movers and shakers - I made it happen. This is the story of how I discovered W/R/F Lab.
One day while aimlessly scrolling Instagram, I came upon a post of the most beautiful table setting. The pieces were obviously handmade, and a lovely balance of both rustic and contemporary. After more creeping, I came to realize that the talented artist behind the gorgeous ceramics line I was drooling over was my high school friend Nobuhito Nishigawara. We had lost touch over the years, but I certainly remembered what a creative cat he was. It was the early 90s when we attended Aldergrove Secondary School together, and Nobu was the only guy with cool hair and an Audi 5000. Yes, he was one of those dudes that was slaying the style game long before people started saying that.
Here’s the DL on cool Nobu and his beautiful line of handmade ceramics.
Erin: When did you start making dinnerware?
Nobu: This collection was somewhat of an accident. My ceramics practice was previously more focused on hand-built sculptural forms. I made a set of dinnerware for my wife in 2013 for Mother's Day and her birthday. We enjoyed using it so much I brought it to a local store, Tortoise General Store, that sells Japanese products. They picked up the line and started selling it, then interest started to grow.
As a young child I remember taking ceramic classes where I learned to make a tea bowl on a potter's wheel. I grew up in Nagoya, Japan, near a lot of major ceramics sites, it wasn't a major impact in my decision to work with clay as a profession, but definitely an experience I remember. I was formally trained in ceramics in college and graduate school. During that time I learned functional and sculptural ceramic processes including throwing on the potter's wheel. I also teach ceramics in a University. Throwing is half of the curriculum, it's something I've regularly done for the past 25 years.
Erin: What’s your process?
Nobu: All the pieces are hand thrown on a potter's wheel. Each piece begins with raw clay, it is wedged to get out any air bubbles, weighed depending on the piece, then thrown on the potter's wheel. For each piece there are handmade guides to measure the height, depth and width of the piece. This gives the collection uniformity but each piece is still unique because of the handmade nature of the pieces. Once dried the pieces are bisque fired then glazed and go through another firing before they are finished.
Erin: What do you think makes your work unique?
My line is all hand-thrown. I have several talented artists that work for me to help produce the pieces. Each piece is made by hand on the potter's wheel. We have handmade guides to make sure the pieces are the same sizes, but there is always a slight variation with each piece because of the handmade nature of the work.
A lot of boutique ceramic lines are created with a jigger, ram press and/or slip casting. This is a mechanize way of creating dinnerware. The original piece may be hand-thrown, but then a mold is made to replicate that piece each time. This process is faster and more cost effective than a hand-thrown production line and can have beautiful results, but each piece is the same, there are not the subtleties of differences that a hand-thrown line has.
Erin: Does your Japanese heritage influence your work?
My line is inspired by the Japanese Mingei (folk art) movement from the 1920's by craftsman, Yanagi Soetsu. He looked at ordinary crafts that were disappearing from Japan because of mass production and worked to revitalize the functional craft traditions. I was inspired to think about creating a functional piece of art that is meant for everyday use, they are affordable in relation to the cost of artwork or even some functional thrown pieces.
The forms of the pieces are not directly influenced by Japanese work, but innately have some Japanese qualities. I designed the line to have simple shapes that don't overpower the visual experience and let the food be the focal point of the meal. I think about the visual harmony between the dinnerware and the food.
Nobu’s Stone Line (in glorious glossy black) has found a permanent home on my dining table. And I can honestly say that regardless of what kind of magic I whip up in the kitchen… WRF gets all the glory!