Philadelphia-based retail shop Rikumo hosts product and art workshops for local creatives; aiming to create lasting connections and collaborations with local artisans.
This year (2017) marks my 10-year anniversary as an online writer. I would never have thought that a simple exploration of digital and technology’s impact on retail would turn into a business based on my biggest passion. In the next few months, you’ll start to see a shift in my content, what I cover and how I delve into current and new subject matter. With that, the one thing I’ll never stop writing are interviews with amazing people in the places I get to travel.
This month, I connected with Kaz and Yuka Morihata, the founders of the brand Morihata International and owners of Rikumo. Kaz and Yuka are two amazing individuals who met as undergraduates at RISD and held positions in interior design and architecture firms before founding their namesake business. Together, they founded Morihata International to support the designers and craftsmen that represented the modern craft techniques of contemporary Japan. Every year, they travel back home to Japan to select thoughtful collections that express the innate quality, craftsmanship, and tactile sensibility of modern Japanese aesthetics.
Aside from designing and carrying beautifully designed merchandise, the duo recently started holding workshops in their retail space. Every month, Kaz and Yuka host workshops at Rikumo in hopes of bringing together the local Philadelphia community that appreciates thoughtful design and creativity. From artist lectures to green tea tastings (the store features a complimentary tea bar), their seasonal workshops invite participants to discover the world of Japanese craftsmanship in their own backyard. I interviewed them on their retail philosophy:
What types of events do you hold in the store and how do they relate to the products you carry?
K & Y: Once a month we host everything from craft workshops to artist lectures, movie screenings, and cooking demonstrations. We like to use our workshops to educate our guests on topics pertaining to Japanese culture, be it crafting, cooking, or horticulture. We like to show our products in action during the event, but the event is not necessarily restricted to a product that we want to promote. Instead, our workshops put a great emphasis on design and creativity; some workshops we’ve had in the past include furoshiki (Japanese textile gift wrapping), suminagashi (paper marbling), and matcha tastings. We’ve had photographers, calligraphy artists and ceramicists presenting in our space as well. It’s a place for our community to come together and learn something new.
Why did you choose to create events that were directly related to the products you carry?
K & Y: As a Japanese lifestyle store, Rikumo is all about telling the stories of the craft movements behind the products we sell. Even our web descriptions and newsletter highlight the craft traditions and processes behind our collections so that even if a guest is just browsing online, they’re still learning something new. There’s no better way to get those stories across than showing you directly, or even letting you have a hand in making something for yourself. We sell some really beautiful objects, but we’re not interested in being a museum. Getting our guests involved in those craft processes helps to break that barrier.
How many participants do you usually have?
K & Y: We like to keep our workshops small so our attendees have time to get some individual instruction from the presenter. That’s usually around 10 people per event, though we do hold multiple sessions throughout the day so more people get a chance to participate. Lectures and screenings usually hold around 40 people.
Aside from learning, what are goals of these events?
K & Y: It’s a great way to form new relationships. There’s nothing that bands people together like a shared passion or interest, so our workshops are a great way to meet people who are also interested in, say, matcha, or Miyazaki movies. We’ve had a few customers that have walked away with fast friendships, which is so wonderful to see. And the chance to learn something new or find a new interest is always fun. Fostering a community that appreciates Japanese design is an important goal of ours.
What are some interesting moments that have happened during them?
K & Y: Earlier this year we had a calligraphist come in who performed in our store by creating large-scale works of calligraphy alongside jazz music. We had a really large turnout and it turned into a really special event that people were visibly excited for. You don’t really get to watch something like that every day in Philadelphia, so we were really happy that we could bring that experience home.
How do you feel that “going beyond just a place a shop” helps achieve the company’s mission?
K & Y: Ultimately, our mission is to promote Japanese craftsmanship. We have a store, and our guests buy our products, but at the end of the day the important thing is that they walk away having engaged with a different way of living. By hosting workshops and events we can engage our customers not just in the end result (the product they buy) but also in the process of making itself. It fits in well with our mission, and it makes our store not just a place to buy stuff, but a place to experience a little bit of Japan.
Craftsmanship, quality, community interaction and beautiful design –– it doesn’t get much better than this. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, stop by Rikumo or if you’re headed to NY NOW® this winter, check out their products firsthand!