Saturday, January 11, 2020


“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa

Ripple out by Osamu Kasho

One of my favorite Karakuri Creation Group productions from last year was a surprising box from the artist Osamu Kasho, whose work I have featured a few times before. Kasho typically applies his whimsy and imagination to create adorable boxes that do not have a classic “box-like” appearance. Whether it is a vehicle, like a rocket ship or tricycle, or an animal, such as a wolf or a lion, his creations are usually playful and cute. They are also usually quite clever in execution, a feature that belies their toy-like appearance. I always look forward to seeing what he will come up with next.

Every detail has meaning

For last year’s Karakuri exhibition theme, “WA”, he created “Ripple out”. Wa translates in English roughly as “harmony”, referring more specifically to a harmonious, peaceful community. Physically, this concept can be represented in many ways, but the seamless unity of a circle is often the perfect symbol. Kasho’s creation deviates from his usual style, in that it is an actual box this time, with an obvious drawer to open. His handiwork can still be recognized in the undulating curves of wood carved into the top, and the perfectly turned little drawer knob. The pattern on top moves back and forth with satisfying clicks, and while the objective may seem clear, getting there is much harder than it looks.

Stunning glass art by Kristin Newton

Kasho collaborated on a special edition of Ripple out with glass artist Kristin Newton. Newton, who is originally from California and studied and apprenticed in glass art in Los Angeles, moved to Japan in 1980 for an exchange program and has mostly lived there ever since. She has taught at the Stained Glass Professional School in Tokyo, and subsequently worked at Mayfair Stained Glass Studio, which has since become Stained Glass Supply Japan. She is also a fan of the Karakuri Creation Group, and attended their last two conferences and their exhibition in Ginza, where she met Osamu Kasho. While talking about life as artists, she suggested it might be wonderful to create a glass and wood karakuri box one day. Kasho and his family went to visit her at her studio, where she showed him how to make glass. After a few ideas and experiments, they settled on the current design.
Newton's current work is focused on smaller fused glass objects of art, such as the unique individual pieces she created for the Ripple out. Kasho designed these versions with additional wood accents, and open bottomed drawers to fit each glass piece and allow the light to shine through, resulting in absolutely stunning displays once the drawers are opened. Newton created ten pieces in total for the project, of which five have now been sold. The collaboration is a contemporary cross pollination of art forms that pushes boundaries and is exactly in keeping with the ultimate mission of the Karakuri Creation Group, to revitalize this art form and keep it relevant in the modern era.

“Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple.” - Gene Wilder

Word Gets Around

I’ve created another variation on the classic Last Word cocktail to toast the beautiful Ripple out puzzle box. From the many versions I have offered here in the past, you may be familiar with the traditional formula of gin, lime, Green Chartreuse and maraschino liqueur. The cocktail was invented in the years before Prohibition at the Detroit Athletic Club, resurrected in 2005 at the Zig Zag Club in Seattle, and remains a popular template for creative riffs today.

Not your typical gin and juice

An interesting modification to the classic is the omission of the lime juice. Sother Teague, the well known mixologist and drinks pioneer who owns the bitter spirits mecca Amor y Amargo in New York City, created a drink based on this idea called “Oh My Word” which substitutes Amaro Montenegro (a citrus forward amaro) and lime bitters for the lime juice. I’ve created an homage to his drink with a slight modification, using the herbal alpine liqueur Genepy in place of the Chartreuse. It’s a lighter, more delicate, and sweeter version of the former, and a common apres-ski aperitif in the region where the flowering namesake herb grows. I’ve also switched the gin for tequila and mezcal for a completely different spin. Like a chaotic game of telephone, Last Word variations can twist and turn, sending ripples into the world, but always coming back full circle in the end. Cheers!

Ripple effects

Word Gets Around

¾ oz reposado tequila
¼ oz blanco mezcal
¾ oz Genepy des Alps
¾ oz Amaro Montenegro
½ oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
Dash of grapefruit bitters
Dash of lime bitters

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Lemon twist.

For more from Osamu Kasho:
Wolves at the Door
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Blast Off
The Lion Sleeps Tonight

For more about Kristin Newton:

N.B. Special thanks to Kristin Newton for the information and insight into their collaboration, and for these wonderful additional photos.

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