Zakka & Shinzi Katoh

While in one of our favorite Chicago shops, Penelope's, a few weeks ago we came across the work of Shinzi Katoh. We were so impressed and smitten with the playful designs translated to broadside prints, bags, water bottles and housewares. We hadn't seen much of Shinzi's work around and were intrigued at finding out more. After a bit of digging, we learned that Shinzi Katoh's work is part of a Japanese design movement called Zakka. Shinzi is one of the most well known Zakka artists with much of his work stemming from children's books, of which he has published over twenty. One book called 'Solarbear', published in 2006 is of particular interest to us - and explains the the problems that polar bears face with the climate crisis.

Zakka itself can be a bit hard to grasp if not familiar - but it really has some deep meaning and thought. The term (from the Japanese 'zak-ka'(雑貨)or 'many things') refers to everything and anything that improves your home, life and outlook. It is often based on household items from the West that are regarded as kitsch in their countries of origin. But can also be Japanese goods from mainly fifties, sixties and seventies. The interest in Nordic or Scandinavian design, both contemporary and past, is also part of this zakka movement. Zakka can also be contemporary handicraft.

Zakka has also been described as "the art of seeing the savvy in the ordinary and mundane". The zakka boom could be recognized as merely another in a series of consumer fads, but it also touches issues of self-expression and spirituality. Cute, corny and kitschy is not enough. To qualify as a zakka, a product must be attractive, sensitive, and laden with subtext.

For your Shinzi Katoh zakka fix, head to Penelope's online shop for a great selection.

Images via Penelope's, Shinzi Katoh, NekoNeko Felis

1 comment:

Jane Pennells said...

What a great find! Thanks so much for sharing this great little store. I love their products and the background info you provided is great!

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