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Meet Ai Kanazawa of Entoten in Bay Ho

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ai Kanazawa.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Ai. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I arrived in the U.S. with my British husband in 2004 and for many years I had a visa that didn’t allow me to work. So, during that time I decided to go to culinary school, which was one of the toughest but also the best things I did in my life. I remember that one day in food presentation class we were taught that “food looks best presented on white plates”, which really surprised me because that was a completely different perspective from Japanese food that I grew up with. In Japan, we use many different vessels to serve food, and vessels are an important part of the presentation. We also use handmade ceramics, glass, wood, and metal vessels on the table quite often.

Right around the same time, I met Ayumi Horie, who is a prominent Japanese-American studio potter based in Portland, Maine. This was in 2011 when Japan was hit by a massive earthquake and Ayumi mobilized to organize an online handmade art auction. My former business partner and I were called upon to help organize this successful fundraiser called Handmade for Japan that raised over $100,000 for the victims of the earthquake.

The event was an eye opener which made me realize the power of the Internet and that was when I thought there may be potential to use the internet to introduce handmade items for daily use for people in the U.S. Together with my business partner, I started Studio KotoKoto in 2012 which was the predecessor to my current online blog and shop, Entoten.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I didn’t expect an overnight success but it exceeded my expectations. I’m especially happy because the vast majority are repeat customers.

So, let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Entoten story. Tell us more about the business.
I introduce beautiful handmade items for daily use that are produced by makers in Japan and the U.S. Through my Entoten website, I want to promote beautiful crafts that are identified with everyday use. So, the items I sell are only complete when they are used by the owners, not as display objects on shelves or walls. I believe that crafts and the skills involved in them are our collective history, and they will continue to thrive only if people incorporated them in their lives as a daily necessity, and in turn, if people continue to be able to make a living from hand-making items.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I feel very lucky to be living in San Diego where there is the only Mingei Museum outside of Japan. The core philosophy of Mingei is in the appreciation of beauty in traditional crafts, that are practical in use.
 

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