Hello from Baum-kuchen studio/shop in Los Angeles!
This story written by Ame is very close to my heart. I feel full of gratitude to have such a unique relationship with the TSL team including Kawai-san, Yoshimi-san, and Yanai-san. It has been six years since I had a pivotal encounter with the TSL Engineer Shoulder Bag in the back alley shop of Harajyuku, Japan. The bag I held on the day has become the very first of many artifacts which I had the honor to introduce and share with our BK community. Their workmanship, as well as their enthusiasm for life, continues to resonate with our values at Baum-kuchen.
I still have a vivid memory of chatting with Kawai-san during the Truly Yours Inspiration Lab in May 2018 and discussing the possibility for Ame to visit and train at TSL headquarter in Okayama. She was in charge of embossing everyone's TN cover during the full-house workshops and she really shined through with her craftsmanship, problem-solving skill, as well as her passion for the hands-on process. I was so thankful that TSL team was able to witness that. I want to truly commend on Ame's courage to take what seemed like a very unknown adventure. To learn a new skill with a language hurdle in an unfamiliar culture is not for a faint heart.
From the bottom of our heart, thank you Kawai-san, for opening your door to us and for sharing your team's expertise, time, and resource with us at Baum-kuchen.
For everyone reading, I hope you enjoy a glimpse of Ame's stay at TSL headquarter in Okayama through her words, photographs, and sketches. She captured a lot of moments using BK Sketchbook which she was carrying during the travel. We will have this special notebook in our studio so if you are local, please stop by our studio/shop during opening hours and ask to see her beautiful archive of the experience in person.
The Superior Labor Leather Carrier was the first TSL product I had ever encountered. When I was deep into fountain pens, it would occasionally show up, holding people’s precious collections. I didn’t really think much of it at that time - and it suffices to say that I had little idea of the range of their collection until I started working at Baum-kuchen.
I had just started at BK, and it was then when Wakako had confirmed our very first workshop with TSL. I have known the fondness for TSL products for as long as I have been at BK, and my desire to visit them at Nap Village only intensified as our preparations for the workshop continued.
The time spent with Kawai-san and Yanai-san at the BKxTSL Truly Yours Inspiration Lab was a dream for me. I loved seeing them work first hand with amazing ease on everyone’s beloved Traveler’s Notebooks. Just as I thought the experience couldn’t get any better, I was invited to visit TSL in Japan myself! I was on cloud nine thousand!!
And thus began all the preparations. Five months after the workshop, I boarded an airplane with my wife, and we journeyed to west Japan. When I got off the tiny local train at the TINY town of Kibichuo, I was greeted by Yoshimi-san’s kind familiar face. I felt at home right away.
Nap Village, where our beloved TSL products are made, is found in the middle of the mountains. The building where the leather workshop and sewing factory reside was an old elementary school built after WWII. In the vicinity, there is the TSL Store & Lab where you can buy their retail goods and enjoy a cup of coffee. (Once a month they even sell bread!!)
The factory is open from Tuesday through Saturday. Most mornings, I would go for a walk in the mountains first then head to the workshop. Every day during my stay, I was under Yanai-san’s tutelage. He taught me bit by bit and built me up to various aspects of the leather craft: leather carving, sewing leather, simple pattern making, and tools maintenance. Each day I did a little of everything, trying to improve on what I had learned the previous day. Learning how leather goods are made was a fascinating experience for me. It takes so much focus and precision to make anything because, with leather, there’s no second chance as opposed to canvas work. It often made me feel nervous! Yanai-san had to remind me to breathe all the time. Though it was challenging, I loved learning every part of it.
After each and every day I was at Nap Village, I became more and more amazed by the precision of every detail on their products. Things may seem simple to do, but simple things take practice to make beautiful and perfect. Now, every time I touch their product, I think about the people I met - and that their hands made this artifact. It makes me so grateful for all their skill. There is so much craftsmanship put into each and every one of our beloved artifacts, I hope people can understand that it takes time to make beautiful and quality products.
Most days I was just with the Nap family, but as life would have it, there were many visitors to Nap Village that week! I was lucky to have some brief exchanges with Teruya-san from Traveler’s Notebook (we even went walking in the mountains together!), Charles and Valerie from Nomado Store, and sweet Ayumi-san from Mambo store. It was great meeting people who all share a love for the quality goods that TSL provides.
My week stay at Nap Village quickly flew by. I felt so at home that it was hard for me to leave. I’m pretty sure I left a huge piece of my heart there!
Being able to learn the leather craft with the TSL staff is so instrumental for us at Baum-kuchen. We are always looking for new ideas to collaborate with our beloved The Superior Labor, a well as to provide BK customers with the opportunity to customize their analogue tools to become as unique as they are. Although there are hurdles to conquer, we are looking forward to providing these services in the future! AND... this is not the end, we are looking forward to welcoming them again in LA for another BK/TSL collaboration!
I truly hope that when you touch your beloved TSL artifacts, that you can appreciate all the work and craftsmanship that goes into each and every little detail.