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About Us ... and You

Greetings!

Hi everyone, I'm Karen, an American expat and this is my husband, Toshiro, an accomplished business school professor and a native of Niigata.  Welcome! 

What Brought About Alfan Select?

Well, as for me, I have been living here in Japan for over 20 years, and during the course of that time, I have had plenty of opportunity to reflect on and enjoy the richness of this culture.  This has always been fun for me and some of my favorites are  ikebana (sogetsu), sumo (big!), sake (cold cocktails are great), sushi (uni), a deep red momiji (maple) leaf in autumn and many more. 

By exploring the Japanese culture I also developed an admiration and sincere awe of the traditional crafts: the master craftman him/herself, the precision skills, the quality outcomes, and the generations of passed-down secrets needed to produce these fine, traditional, and renowned crafts:  Traditional crafts such as the Wajima and Izu Lacquareware, the Takaoko Hand-hammered Copperware, Woven Suruga Bamboo and Hand-dyed textiles and many more. 

So I had appreciation and a bit knowledge of some traditional craft arts ....

But a bit is never enough.... is it?

Well, one thing led to another and soon my appreciation

developed into a budding curiosity,

which prompted an investigation,  

which led to a great explore,

and ended in the discovery:  that when it comes to tradition, things are not always what they seem.

..... tradition it seems, doesn't really stand still, but like culture itself, is created and recreated -- constantly. It is on-going, dynamic and always interesting.

And, I found evidence:  while some Japanese craft studios were thankfully and honestly "carrying on tradition" others were quietly, and dilligently moving forward:  recreating experience, redefining craft-art, building on traditional skills, adding new tools, techniques, exploring, experimenting and growing in exciting and amazing contemporary directions.  That made me, and us, sit up!  Now that is interesting!

Quality Craft Is a Japanese Tradition

Karen's Traditional Black Maki-e Urushi Box Japan

For most modern studios, traditional skills, techniques, dedication to craft and quality, still strongly, as in generations past, motive activities. In Japanese, Shokunin, is a word with depth of meaning often associated with a sense of pride, of mastering that includes an almost soulful dedication to ones craft. Many of these ateliers still to this day, employ generations-honed traditional, handicraft skills with the heart of the shokunin.  The beautiful Urushi Maki-e box pictured here was a wedding gift to us years ago from my husband's parents, and a fine example of traditional work. 

Green with Gold Maki-e 200 Year Old Urushi Lacaquerware Bowl from Japan

We also have a set of Urushi lacquer soup bowls , a family heirloom, having been in the family for over 200 years.  Way back in the day, it was very common for my husband's family to use these, and other urushi ware, when they entertained for large family gatherings and visitors.  According to my father-in-law, they also lent them out to family and village folk for weddings and funeral gatherings. These lacquer bowls are part of a larger collection of usable lacquarware, cherished and passed down for over 6 generations. The green color most likely produced with a mixture of orpiment and indigo.

And yet, despite the constant use these bowls have endured, they are surprisingly still in very good shape, glossly and smooth and calming to the eyes and light in the hand and to the touch.  Urushi, in fact is well-know for it long life and you can read more about this amazing craft-art in the Urushi Jewelry Collection here.

Beyond Tradition - A Contemporary Flair

Yellow Urushi Bangle Rie Sakamoto Designer

Though traditions and skills are foundational, many craft studios also willing embrace modern styles with contemporary tools and technniques for additional creative outlets. These two styles may seem contradictory, yet the outcome is truly authentic, made-in-japan quality and craftsmanship that is gift-worthy, and collectable.  So we decided to look beyond the wonderful traditional crafts and explore current artists and studios who are quietly producing some new works.

What we found is still little known outside Japan - Urushi in bright yellows and blues;  hand-crafted bamboo vases with designs strikingly simple and modern; artist hand-hammered, two-cup, blue patina pour-over coffee pot, colorful, titantium sake cocktail tumblers and more.  We found a new wave of Japan original contemporary designs born of new techniques, innovative technologies - requiring various traditional expertise, but also new creativity in design, materials and even in engineering and technology as well.  

It's Really All About ... You

A May, 2020 survey from the UK Craft Council found an amazing and heightened interest in contemporary, and cutting-edge craft and design.  Craft-arts and design are for everyone. Someone like you, of any age, place in life, and place in the world, who wants to experience, enjoy, admire, and appreciate a very human expresion of life - that which is authentic, genuine and embodied in an beautiful object of craft-art and design. 

So we hope to present you with a chance to enjoy, own and collect an object of beauty; to marvel at a new, bright technology; to color-up your home, your attire, and your every day life.... or to give as a truly original gift ... a gift to someone special - a loving father, a caring sister, a friend who is always there or perhaps to a joyfully-engaged couple.  A craft art or design gift, is always additionally meaningful when it is a highly personal giftindividually made, of exceptional quality and craftsmanship, and uniquely original ...  As a gift, yours will be the only one......

Japan 2020 and a COVID Challenge

This year, 2020,  Japan hoped to welcome the 2020 Summer Olympics to our shores. We felt SO PROUD to represent these small craft studios, ateliers, fine artists, designers and even "craft-engineers" at such an exciting time!

Sadly, the COVID-19 global health crisis has impacted our ability to contact additional studios and has slowed our activities a bit.  An unexpected challenge!  Luckily, authentic, handcrafted, or designer products, have great worth and value and will surely endure.  We hope to continue to add to our collection over the coming next months and to continually add new, rare, and worthy craft art and design to our shop.

So what do you think?  Drop me an email and let's chat!  Cheers,  Karen