Objects of Use and Beauty: Design and Craft in Japanese Culinary Tools

  • 02 Jun 2018
  • 28 Oct 2018
  • Fuller Craft Museum, 455 Oak Street, Brockton, MA 02301

White Donabe Pot Photo Credit Joanne Rathe Strohmeyer

Objects of Use and Beauty: Design and Craft in Japanese Culinary Tools

Fuller Craft Museum
455 Oak Street, Brockton, MA 02301

June 2, 2018 - October 28, 2018

Museum Hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Thursday 5:00 – 9:00 pm

Reception and Lecture June 3, 2018, 2:00 – 5:00 pm

Japanese tools for the kitchen are admired as objects of beauty. They are also practical, functioning utensils for the preparation of food. Dedicated craftspeople design and produce them in materials ranging from metal and wood to stone, bamboo, reeds, grasses, ceramic, silicone, fiberglass, and plastic. These tools reflect their makers’ art, as well as the functions each object serves: producing and serving foods desired for their taste and beauty around the world. In Japan, food is a multisensory experience: me de taberu or “eat with your eyes,” as the saying goes. Aesthetic pleasure, too, applies to the tools that produce it. This “beauty in use”—yō no bi—inspires Objects of Use and Beauty: Design and Craft in Japanese Culinary Tools.

This exhibition at Fuller Craft Museum gathers items diverse in design and function, organized around their uses in professional and domestic kitchens. The aim is to celebrate the artistry of these works; to inspire curiosity; and, for those unfamiliar, to provide points of connection with these versatile wares. For what chef—Japanese or otherwise—could not enjoy the feel of a perfectly weighted knife, the warmth of a wood rice paddle, the glint of light off a hammered pot, and the textures and tastes of foods cut, sieved, grated, or simmered with such utensils?

Objects of Use and Beauty: Design and Craft in Japanese Culinary Tools will demonstrate the beauty of design and use in Japanese cooking and reveal the artistry of craftsmanship in such tools as knives, whisks, ceramic, and other important items. Videos of craftspeople at work will be included, as well as the tools themselves and narratives of their use. In addition, there will be there will be a look into a contemporary home kitchen and culinary demonstration videos. The exhibition is complemented by an exquisite exhibition catalogue of the same title.

About the Curators:
Debra Samuels and Merry White have each spent several decades of their lives living in or visiting Japan. Debra Samuels has been visiting Japan since 1972 and each time absorbs more of local culinary culture, practice, and pleasures. She has collected her experiences and recipes in her cookbook, My Japanese Table, published by Tuttle Press in 2011, helping many outside Japan to enjoy the simple and surprisingly accessible foods that reflect her relationships and experiences of Japanese culinary culture. The people with whom she cooked have become her family over these years of learning and eating. Now she teaches about Japanese food and culture in Europe and America. Debra is lead curriculum developer in a new project called Wa-Shokuiku, a seven-week, hands-on course for elementary through middle school, focusing on Japanese cuisine, culture, and nutrition.

Merry White has been visiting Japan since 1963, when, as a young student, she fell in love with Japanese food and began her collection of objects related to food. After some years as a caterer and cookbook writer, she began graduate work in Japanese studies at Harvard University and is now professor of anthropology at Boston University, specializing in Japan and food. She has received an Imperial Honor, The Order of the Rising Sun, from the Japanese government. She has written several books on Japanese families, women, and Japanese education, and her most recent book, Coffee Life in Japan, chronicles Japan’s two centuries of obsession with coffee and its cafes, revealing some of the stories of craft also heard in Japan’s food culture. Her current research is on Japanese food workers—artisanal, domestic and industrial.


Sponsored by the Caroline R. Graboys Fund, the Japan World Exposition 1970 Commemorative Fund, and The Japan Foundation, New York.


White Donabe Pot   Photo Credit: Joanne Rathe Strohmeyer

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