Most artists would blanch at the thought of their work being treated the way Shinzi Katoh‘s is. The Japanese artist’s work is often covered in food or ink or grime, and is in constant danger of getting scuffed, dropped, or marked. None of this worries Katoh, though. As one of the world’s leading zakka designers, he’s really quite used to it.
What is zakka? Translated as “many things” in Japanese, zakka refers to cleverly designed household items that jazz up your home, life, and outlook. Zakka products often take style cues from Scandinavian design and handicrafts. Not just any cute object qualifies as zakka, though; items in this genre must be thoughtful, artistic, and add to the user’s means of self-expression. “Zakka is the art of seeing the savvy in the ordinary and mundane,” reads a New York Times article about this Asian design trend.
In Japan, Katoh is a household name. His whimsical characters, from the cat-loving Chéri to the eco-friendly Solar Bear, are familiar faces in Japan, and Katoh has already illustrated 22 children’s books, and two for adults. His Kasugai city studio, gallery, atelier shop, and museum are tourist destinations, and Katoh is also well-known for his portraits and landscape paintings.
As if that isn’t enough, Katoh is gaining a strong following abroad, with Facebook and Flickr fan groups, and showings at Paris’ Maison & Objet and the New York International Gift Fair. This prolific artist is currently working on more than 200 jewelry designs for necklaces, rings, and bracelets, painting pieces for his art gallery, and working with Western retailers such as ModCloth to continue introducing his work to new audiences.
The reason behind Katoh’s superstar status may be because his intentions have always been simple and humble: he wants his designs to make his customers happy. “Zakka belongs in our daily lives, and gives us happiness and encouragement. I always think of something funny when I am designing and drawing pictures,” he says, in hopes that his joy will inspire the same feeling in his customers.
SHINZI KATOH GIVEAWAY!
How do YOU represent or create zakka in your own life? Post a response to that question in the comments, and you could win one of 10 Shinzi Katoh mini towels not sold on the site! Entries will be accepted until 12 p.m. EST on March 29. For full contest rules, check out our Contest and Comments Guidelines.