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Some of Today’s Most Prized Shaker Boxes are Made in Japan by Masashi Ifuji

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Some of Today’s Most Prized Shaker Boxes are Made in Japan by Masashi Ifuji

March 13, 2023

Masashi Ifuji encountered his first Shaker box while flipping through a magazine when he was in high school: “I was amazed by the existence of such a dainty, elegant object.” Later, when his training as a master woodworker was underway, Ifuji went on a Shaker pilgrimage to the Eastern US: “I visited Pleasant Hill, Mount Lebanon, Hancock, Enfield, Canterbury, Watervliet, Sabbathday Lake, and Old Chatham Shaker sites and museums: it was a very thorough journey,” he told John and Juli Baker of Mjölk in Toronto, which recently staged a Ifuji show.

Mjölk is one of several of our favorite design destinations to spotlight Ifuji’s work of late. Join us for an appreciatory tour.

Photography courtesy of Ifuji, unless noted.

in addition to shaker boxes, ifuj makes furniture and tableware, all in wood. h 17
Above: In addition to Shaker boxes, Ifuj makes furniture and tableware, all in wood. He lives and works in Matsumoto, a city Nagano, Japan, where he and his wife run Laboratorio, a multi-faceted emporium and café with an Ifuji’s showroom.
ifuji&#8\2\17;s new tokyo shop, the box tailor offers the full array of his 18
Above: Ifuji’s new Tokyo shop, The Box Tailor offers the full array of his Shaker receptacles—and the option to order custom versions, designed to hold specific objects, for instance. Each takes up to three days to make, and Ifuji creates most of his stains from plant dyes.

ifuji table and stools at march sf 19
Above Ifuji’s line also includes table and stools newly available at March in San Francisco. The Folding Tables, $2,500, a March exclusive, are made by hand of maple finished with a dye made from logwood, a dark heartwood. The design is modeled after British early 20th century campaign furniture and collapses for easy storage. Photograph via March.

ifuji&#8\2\17;s three legged walnut stools are available in three finishes  20
Above: Ifuji’s three-legged walnut stools are available in three finishes from March, which describes his work as “reproductions of old objects, created as a guide to tomorrow by making lessons of the past.” The Walnut Three-Legged Stools, $900, are light and sturdy—”all of my pieces,” Ifuji says, “are meant to be used.” Photograph via March.
a display at ifuji the box tailor in tokyo. &#8\2\20;i find that despite th 21
Above: A display at Ifuji The Box Tailor in Tokyo. “I find that despite the boxes originating in America, they have such a purity of design language that they find universal relevance,” Ifuji says.

Ifuji crafts his boxes the traditional way, by boiling the wood, shaping it, and allowing it to dry in a mold for two days. Photograph via Mjölk.

a glimpse of the masashi ifuji exhibit at mjölk in toronto, where his oval 22
Above: A glimpse of the Masashi Ifuji exhibit at Mjölk in Toronto, where his Oval Boxes range in price from $75 to $2,000 CAD. See all of the shop’s Ifuji offerings here, and read the interview with Ifuji that accompanied the Mjölk exhibition of his work. Photograph via Mjölk.
above: ifuji has started finishing some of his boxes with milk paint, including 23
Above: Above: Ifuji has started finishing some of his boxes with milk paint, including this pink collection.
ifuji also makes an array of wooden plates and trays. this italian wooden plate 24
Above: Ifuji also makes an array of wooden plates and trays. This Italian Wooden Plate, $155 small and $225 large, is one of several available at Tiina the Store in Amagansett, NY, which also carries Ifuji’s boxes. Photograph via Tiina the Store.
an ifuji shaker tray with a grape hyacinth spotted @masashi ifuji. he uses swal 25
Above: An Ifuji Shaker tray with a grape hyacinth spotted @masashi_ifuji. He uses swallow tail joints and copper rivets—and never any glues.
an ifuji stack of japanese cherry via koto ma. see the full array of his design 26
Above: An Ifuji stack of Japanese cherry via Koto Ma. See the full array of his designs at Ifuji—and watch this Youtube video of the master at work.

Featured image: Ifuji’s own showcase of his designs.

More Shaker design—and contemporary versions of it:

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