The 2021 Niwaki Catalogue is here!
Yes, we have a new website and yes, it looks amazing and functions beautifully (hem hem), but if you’re anything like us you still appreciate the tactile pleasures of a brand new, old-fashioned ink ’n’ paper catalogue. Did we hear someone shout ‘sugoi!’ (a popular Japanese utterance of excited approval)? Well, they were right to, because this year’s catalogue is indeed a cause for celebration. Many months in the making, ably overseen by Sophie Châtellier (who is also responsible for the design of the new website), with illustrative flourishes from Natsko Seki, this year’s catalogue has a few surprises up the billowy sleeves of its Kojima work jacket (p.40, for when you get your hands on a copy).
You’ll have to order the catalogue to see the whole thing for yourself, but without giving too much away, we can reveal a few highlights.
In March this year, in the run-up to Sakura-season, Soeda – our man with a cam in Japan – took the train north to Niigata to spend a few days with some of the men and women whose blacksmithing skills set our secateurs, loppers, shears, knives and other bladed items apart from the crowd. In an age of mass-produced, throwaway products, isn’t it reassuring to know real craftspeople are fusing traditional skills with modern metallurgical know-how to create functional and beautiful tools? Soeda’s photos will give you a little glimpse of the birthplace of your favourite new bladed ‘how-did-I-ever-live-without-this?’ Niwaki purchase. Care for it correctly (we can help with that too), and chances are you won’t ever have to live without it again.
We mentioned the Kojima Work Jacket, but did you know we now have matching Kojima Work Trousers? In fact, our ‘Gear’ section (p.40), which encompasses work-wear, bags and holsters, is slowly expanding, and now includes an easy-wearing, summer-ready t-shirt, featuring more artwork by Natsko. If you like the catalogue design, you might love the t-shirt. You’ll find all the old favourites like the Niwaki Woolly Hat, our famous Canvas Cap and the Jika Tabi split-toe garden boots in there too.
We built our name on our lightweight but incredibly stable tripod ladders, so it would be perverse not to include our handy guide for you to study at your leisure (p.28). Those with a head for heights can fantasise about the hitherto inaccessible boughs, hedges and truculent cats they’ll be able to reach with our massive 15 footer, but from 4 feet upwards (not counting our stylish Lucano house steps), there’s a ladder to suit all but the most severely afflicted acrophobiac.
Benjamin Kato models the modest 4 foot Niwaki Original Tripod Ladder whilst wielding a Niwaki GR210 Folding Saw. His loins are girded by a Niwaki Big Belt, supporting a Niwaki Garden Scissor Holster. From the peak of his boonie hat to the tips of his split-toe Niwaki Jika Tabi boots, he’s ready for any gardening job (at or below the 8 foot mark).
Whatever the focus of your garden – be it a sculptural wonder, a floral paradise, or even a failing lawn with broken trampoline - there are a 101 jobs to be done in June and July. Recent downpours here in Dorset have turbo-charged the weeds, so you might find yourself flicking straight to the Digging & Cultivating pages (pp.22-27) to feast your eyes on the humble but wickedly effective Niwaki Weeding Hoe (p.26).
In our house, every available vessel has been commandeered for bouquets of sweet peas, peonies and roses, the gathering of which has been ably assisted by the right secateurs and snips (see Pruning – p.12 – and Floral and Bonsai – p.36). Depending on which model you choose, you might spot the blacksmith responsible somewhere in the catalogue. We use Kenzan (which roughly translates as ‘spiky mountain’) to add a little structure to our arrangements and expand the range of bowls and dishes that can be called into service. If you haven’t tried one yet, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the new shapes you can conjure up with these little marvels.
Masaru Suzuki contemplates a large Kenzan.
The next step, after arranging your stems on the spiky metal tips, is to place the Kenzan in a bowl or dish of water, so the stem tips are submerged. Although you need less water than a vase, you may need to refresh it more frequently since the increased surface area of water in a bowl speeds up evaporation.
The spikes are so strong, you can arrange thicker woody stems. If you find the spikes are getting bent, there’s even a special straightening tool.
The big, BIG news is that we’re opening a shop in London later this year, to complement our Semley (nr. Tisbury, Dorset) showroom, which is itself moving a few buildings over into the courtyard at Chaldicott Barns. The new shop, based in Chiltern Street, W1, will have the full Niwaki range plus one or two special items, as well as workshops and events throughout the year. We can’t recommend waving your Hori Hori (p.26) about on the tube, but we love the thought that soon there will at least be Niwaki tote bags swinging their way through the city, and that finally our metropolitan customers can view the superior craftsmanship of our products at first hand. In fact, we’re so excited this definitely won’t be the last you’ll hear about it: please stay tuned for more information and news of the grand opening.
We could go on and on about the rest of the catalogue, but perhaps the best thing to do is for you to get your hands on your own copy, so please do sign up. All that remains is for you to prepare a cool drink and a shady spot in the garden (or steaming hot tea and a shed, depending on current forecast) while we wind up the mechanical tongue and set it to high-speed stamp-licking. Sugoi!
It’s coming along! Our new shop on Chiltern Street, W1, will open late summer 2021.
Artwork by Natsko Seki.
Or if you’re already signed up, keep an eye on your doormat … it’s coming!