Tag Archives: artisan

Kiriko Made: The Post-Industrial Bespoke Movement

Kiriko One

In a world where consumer goods are meant to be opiate for the masses, and shopping is a sport to numb the pain of daily life, a new movement has risen from the ash and garbage that fill the streets: Oregon Industrial. Perhaps it would sound better as Bespoke Industrial or Artisanal Industrial Mercantile? Regardless, there is a higher end, post-hipster movement that seems to have originated in Portland, of all places. The premise is that Gen Y and those whose talents are no longer appreciated have abandoned the lure of tech internships that may eventually lead to a low salary in ten years. Citizens have walked away from the idea that New York, Toronto, Washington and Los Angeles are the only places on earth to purchase property (or, rather, rent at suicidal monthly rates). Comrades have chosen Portland as a place to come together, take back the heavy-duty sewing machine, wipe off the grease from abandoned motors, and start crafting authentic, low-production goods for people who appreciate materials that were de rigeur before plastic became our mantra.

My past few purchases have not been inexpensive, nor have they been simple. Toronto is far from the Pacific West, which means that USPS has become a pusher for my material needs. First it was a key fob and Leica-style camera strap from Tanner Goods. Then came a straight razor strop from horse hide arrived from Bison,  a suit bag from Seattle-based Filson, and a mint green, leather knife roll from Butcher and Baker. Before I knew it I found myself surrounded by beautiful materials that made me feel more connected to the items I used. They key idea is that I use all of these items in an almost religious manner. I appreciate the feel of the strop; the look of the simple key fob as it rests in my hand or dangles from the ignition of my Ducati Monster.  My desire to use an item often means that I must take the time to pack my clothes for a trip in lieu of rolling them into a ball, and I need to spend ten minutes sharpening my straight razor on the strop before I even get to the bathroom sink for shaving. I have become mindful and present. I am in the moment as the material serves as a catalyst for an intellectual slowing down of my time. Time has become precious.

Kiriko Two

Yesterday’s post brought me two scarfs and a pocket square from Portland-based Kiriko. I came across a few of their pieces in a small shop in Nashville’s 12 South area. The deep indigo colours and Japanese fabrics caught my attention immediately. Since travelling to Japan a few years ago, I realize the unique tension in fabric and foreign colour palette that are signature to Japan. A week ago I came across a Boro-style scarf online and fell in love with the contrasting indigo/floral pattern. I ordered the scarf which is made from Japanese heirloom fabrics, a Kimono striped scarf and a deep indigo pocket square. Within a few days all arrived in uniquely gorgeous packaging, and I now had items that I know will be with me through a great many made adventures, adding points of style to what can be a bleak world.


There may have also been an impulse need to purchase a NATO-style watchband from Worn&Wound, a purveyor and reviewer of watch ephemera. You see, Old Sport, I inherited more than my fair share of beat up, broken down watches from my father upon his death this past summer. I never wear a watch. I hate having things on my wrists. I care little what the time is. But…this black strap sang a siren song: rebuild the watch the Chinese restaurant owner gave your father when he was a young boy. Mystery surrounds this watch, and it is a relic of my father’s imagination that I remember since my own birth.

It has no intrinsic value in the metals or craftsmanship. The watch must be hand-wound on a daily basis. I am still unsure whether it will even keep time. The point is that I have chosen to take a piece back from the landfill, ignore that my iPhone keeps perfect time, and live within a different reality as the Horween-produced leather strap hugs a piece of metal tightly to my wrist that once belonged to men I  should have known better. Perhaps it serves as a talisman to make sure I know those who follow me better than those who came before.


My day starts, and will end, with an espresso and slice of molten chocolate cake inspired by our dinner at Montreal’s Joe Beef this past weekend.  My version uses up the wide variety of aging chocolate that filled my cupboard, blooming and losing its sheen. I would like to think that the French pan adds more beauty to the cake, than the skillet ours was served in at the restaurant. The flavours are dead on, the texture is perfect…now if I only had a soft serve ice cream machine that could spit out perfect peppermint-infused dollops of ice milk, then I would be king.


Et in Arcadia ego

Our lives are filled with meetings and departures. Finding the time to reconnect with the important people is never as easy as it should be; we never have the time to do the things we must in the topsy-turvy world of the modern. Whenever I come home, however, I always attempt to meet up with the man who enlightened my mind to the world around me, Reg Porter. Without Reg I would never have found the outlandish courage to seek brave new worlds and risk having my little pudgies slapped by Life repeatedly.  Porter was my most influential mentor and remains a brilliant mind who appreciates the beauty found in objects others see nothing in. Porter taught me five courses from my Art History minor in university, but really his influence was foundational in terms of aesthetics, travel, photography, literature, food and teaching as a career. His advice was always sought for, and even when not given, spoke volumes to me.

V. and I were ever so lucky to finally meet up with Reg on New Year’s Eve. We brought along a suitable braised beef in red wine with carrots, and a platter of prosciutto with parmesan from Italy. After a fine bottle of Barbersco and another of Amarone wine, we settled to discuss the world, our lives and learning. The night was truly special; the type of evening one’s soul craves for more often.

V. and Reg connected on their passion for biology, and I merely relaxed and listened, remembering the many, many such evenings I have been so lucky to have enjoyed with Porter over the past 18 years. With four cats on the go and many exciting topics to discuss, five hours passed like minutes, and then we had to take our leave.

Porter explained his current love of antique microscopes, and I took advantage of the time to reflect on what I love about well-made cameras and books; why have humans become so easy to please with cheap plastics and digital media when the value of a library is palpable in a way that Kindle/Kobo downloads never will be. Convenience and space, I suppose, dictate our choices.

Regardless, the glory of seeing Porter’s antique Victorian slides mounted with the most glorious papers and designs left me speechless. Nothing we do today has such meticulous details impressed upon them, and yet we feel superior to the artisans of yesteryear. Do not misunderstand me – our lives have a comfort and value that was not available to our ancestors – we simply choose overabundance in lieu of quality and beauty. Enter any Wal-Mart or Sears and you will see what cheap products abound to clutter our lives and living quarters.

Upon reflection, when I moved into the Tip Top Lofts studio I abandoned the “Porter-style” of antiquity in favour of a post-modern, digital/analogue feel. I did this because I needed separation from a painful part of my past and to start from ground zero. With every new plateau we often must adapt our surroundings to reflect our minds, and I enjoy the clarity that a Zen style provides. Still, the comfort and depth that both V. and I found within the Porter residence made me long for the older house with many rooms, a garden of classic proportions and a library where we could read into the world’s final days. Et in Arcadia ego…or at least I want to be.