Get Ready for the 10th Annual Kokoro Craft Boutique

Fat Rabbit Farm at the 2017 Kokoro Craft Boutique

Organized by JANM volunteers, the 10th Annual Kokoro Craft Boutique is this Sunday, October 7 from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Are you ready for it all? Dozens of vendors will be on hand with unique jewelry, kimono fabric fashions, cultural t-shirts, handbags, ceramics, origami, bronze and glass art, and much more! Also, there will be a taiko performance by Yuujou Daiko at 1 p.m. Make a purchase of $20 or more, and you’ll receive free same-day museum admission along with a 10% discount at local participating Little Tokyo eateries during the month of October (some restrictions apply). This event is aimed at helping small businesses with connections to Little Tokyo while a percentage of proceeds goes to benefit the museum’s education programs.

We reached out to a few vendors who will be participating in this year’s event. We asked them about exciting products they will be offering this year, why they participate, and if they have any memorable events from past boutiques. Jason Ponggasam, co-founder of Fat Rabbit Farm, a company that creates apparel, art, accessories, and storybooks inspired by his rabbits, said, “It’s always such a pleasure and honor to be a part of LA’s Japanese American community. We always have a great time seeing familiar faces and of course new ones. I’m glad we can contribute to JANM.” He continued to say, “One memory that stands out (at Kokoro) is when George Takei came by to visit. I didn’t get the chance to speak with him but just seeing him smile with such positive energy was wonderful!”

Shoppers at the 2017 Kokoro Craft Boutique

Caitlin Reyna of Boy Cherie jewelry who specializes in making fashion jewelry using intricate techniques and quality materials to ensure each piece last for years is excited to debut a new collection at the event. Said Reyna, “I am working very hard on my holiday collection and can’t wait to debut the items at the craft boutique. The holidays are only a few months away, so I’m sure some visitors will be doing some early shopping! The majority of my pieces are designed to be both on-trend and timeless, so they make perfect gifts and are also great pieces to accessorize for the holiday festivities!”

Yasuko Ozawa who makes ceramics exclusively with high fire clays and glazes that create unique depth and colors has participated in many of the past Kokoro Boutiques. Ozawa said, “I love the venue at JANM. It’s always a fantastic turnout of people who are looking to shop for unique items. The volunteers are incredibly helpful, and the boutique always runs so smoothly. And of course, it’s an added bonus that a portion of my sales goes to supporting JANM.” She also creates special products for the event, “I sell handmade ceramicware and I offer the usual bowls, cups, utensil holders, planters, etc. Every year I glaze and decorate them differently to keep things more interesting. This year I started making goblet-styled stemmed cups (like for wine and beer), and I’m really excited to be selling those this year. So cheers! Kampai!”

Crafts for sale at the 2017 Kokoro Craft Boutique

We hope to see you this weekend in Little Tokyo! This event has become a staple of the community over the years with some considering it the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season. For more information and a list of participating vendors, visit janm.org/events or email kokorocraft@gmail.com.

Shop Handmade Arts and Crafts to Benefit JANM’s Education Programs

PrintThis Sunday, October 2, is the Eighth Annual Kokoro Craft Boutique, organized by JANM’s corps of volunteers. The boutique has become a staple of the community over the years, with many considering it the first stop on their holiday shopping journey. Dozens of vendors will be on hand to sell unique jewelry, kimono fabric fashions, Giant Robot merchandise, handbags, ceramics, origami and glass art, dog fashions, and more. A taiko performance by Yuujou Daiko will take place at 1 p.m., and all proceeds will benefit JANM’s education programs.

To learn more about the boutique and its origins, we sat down with Irene Nakagawa, one of the volunteers in charge of organizing the event.

JANM: How did Kokoro Craft Boutique come into being?

Irene Nakagawa: When Ernie Doizaki was Chair of JANM’s Board of Trustees, he approached Janet Maloney, who was chair of the Volunteer Leadership Council at the time, and asked, what can the volunteers do to help bring money into the museum? Janet had had experience organizing boutiques at her son’s high school, so she suggested doing a boutique for JANM. And Ernie said, well go for it! So then we asked all the volunteers who are shoppers to go out and visit different boutiques and get ideas and bring back information about the vendors. We also solicited advice from a few friends with experience running boutiques, like Carol Yuki, whose husband Tom is a current member of the Board of Trustees.

So that’s how we got started and over the last eight years, it has just grown. As of this year we have 55 vendors and a waiting list! Word spreads—friends have friends who can do arts and crafts. We also have people that are second generation now, as mothers have turned duties over to their daughters. The first year, we were mainly in Aratani Central Hall. This year we’re filling up Central Hall, Nerio Education Center, the Kagawa Lobby, the Weingart Foundation Garden Foyer, and the Inahara Gallery Foyer on the second floor.

Jewelry by Daliano Designs, on display at the 2015 Kokoro Craft Boutique. Daliano will be returning to this year's event.
Jewelry by Daliano Designs, on display at the 2015 Kokoro Craft Boutique.
Daliano will be returning to this year’s event.

 

JANM: How do you select the vendors?

IN: We want to get as many vendors as we can, just to showcase all the different arts and crafts that are out there, but everything has to be hand-made. It can’t be anything you can buy commercially.

JANM: Why did you choose to benefit JANM’s education program?

IN: Well, we’re all volunteers and we figured that was our goal—to educate the public. Every year at the Gala Dinner, JANM does a Bid for Education, started by the late Senator Daniel Inouye, a great friend to the museum. We thought, this is a way to supplement that effort, and give more schoolchildren a chance to come to the museum. To date, I think we’ve raised about $85,000 total for the museum. Every year the number goes up!

Happy Shirts display at the 2015 boutique. They will also be participating in this year's event.
Happy Shirts display at the 2015 boutique.
They will also be participating in this year’s event.

 

JANM: What is the arrangement with the vendors?

IN: After they rent their table spaces, they give 15% of their sales proceeds to the museum, plus they have to donate one item for the raffle, which brings in even more funding.

JANM: Can you give us some highlights of the cool items that will be available for purchase this year?

IN: Oh, everything is cool! But as far as highlights—this year we have Janis Kato, a younger fashion designer who is popular among the Sansei; Michele Yamaguma, who does unique Asian collages; Kathy Yoshihara, who does interesting pottery pieces that incorporate gourds; Adrienne Lee, a former JANM staffer, who makes purses; Jamie Totsubo, who makes dog collars and dog sweaters; Cynthia Ishii, who makes handbags out of beautiful Asian fabrics; and some excellent jewelry makers. These are just a few examples that I’m pulling off the top of my head.

We will also have great food vendors, like Marimix, who makes delicious cookies and rice cracker snack mixes; and Sheri Miyamoto, who will donate 100% of the proceeds from her baked goods in honor of her parents, who were major donors to JANM. Our food truck this year is Slammin’ Sliders, who is coming out from San Gabriel Valley.

We will also have Yuujou Daiko performing taiko on the plaza—one of their members is also a volunteer here.

Kokoro Craft Boutique, 2014
Kokoro Craft Boutique, 2014

 

JANM: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

IN: Be sure to tell everyone we have air conditioning! And that by coming out to support us, you support the museum.

Kokoro Craft Boutique takes place this Sunday, October 2, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the boutique is free; admission to JANM is “Pay What You Wish.” Make a boutique purchase of $10 or more and receive a 10% discount at participating Little Tokyo restaurants. For more information, email kokorocraft@gmail.com. Presented by Friends of the Museum.