As a brush lover and collector, my heart sings when I hear “Yakusugi”. The first time was in 2014 when I was gifted a brush set with Yakusugi handles. After this, I would occasionaly ask my contacts in Japan to create some bespoke brushes with this wood for my personal use.
Yakusugi cedar wood comes from Yakushima island in Japan. Today this is a truly rare and sought-after wood because felling trees or cutting branches is not permitted since they grow in a designated UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. The wood that we can use is from trees that have decayed due to weather conditions or that has been found underground. It’s recovered, taken care of very preciously and then used for very special pieces, it’s truly insanely expensive and its value will only increase with time.
Not all cedar wood from Yakushima island is called Yakusugi, this is reserved only for trees older than 1000 years of age. If it’s a younger cedar -under 1000 years old- it’s called Kosugi or Jisugi depending on the tree. During the making of this project I have been told that some may call “yakusugi” a tree that is not necessarily over 1000 years old due to the density of its rings and its resin. For my projects, I have been guaranteed that the wood used for these brushes and for the Tower Case is all from authentic 1000+ years old yakusugi- not coming from recycled pieces but from genuine wood timbers. Due to the nature of the product, there may be some small flaws, scratches, dents or chipping in the recovered wood – these re-enforce the personality of each item.
Yakusugi has a high resin content due to Yakushima’s high rainfall and humidity, this makes the wood resistant to rotting and allows the trees to have longer lives. When Yakusugi is used to make hand crafted items, its resin contributes to giving the items a beautiful gloss the more they are used. They also say that the trees live so long because the wood has antifungal and antimicrobial properties, and that it is also insect repellant, I don’t know to what extent but they do mention it.
What truly mesmerizes me is the scent that Yakusugi has. It’s not really noticeable on the handles because they have been coated for their protection. However, the Yakusugi Tower Case does have a very strong scent and I will explain why on the dedicated post. Let’s talk about the brush set now.
THE YAKUSUGI BRUSH SET
This Special Edition set comes in a paulownia wooden box, secured with an elastic plum ornament. I am not a fan of wasting costs on packaging or marketing as I prefer to invest all in the quality of the items themselves. Here, we certainly needed some means of protection because Yakusugi wood is very soft and delicate. I tried to do some packaging that you could reuse at home if you wish to.
The illustration on the box is printed, we couldn’t go for laser and printing was more of a challenge than anticipated. This illustration features two cranes, I just love cranes and these two will be featured in some of my limited edition pieces in the future. At the bottom of the illustration there are two cedar branches reminiscent of the Yakusugi items inside.
Inside the paulownia box, you will find the set wrapped in traditional soft pink washi paper.
This washi paper is very dear to me, it features a spiral design: “Uzumaki”. It reminded me of infinity spirals which I particularly love. I have a tattoo on my back that features a sun with an infinity spiral in the center, they told me at the time that this kind of spiral symbol conveys love, beauty and power, well, obviously there are several meanings and symbolisms, but I did like that one 🙂 I am not sure the spirals on this washi paper were done with a specific meaning in mind but I certainly found this design very elegant and appropriate.
The handles of these two brushes are made by the same artisan who made the Yakusugi Tower Case, Mr Tenou. They are 100% Yakusugi wood, each handle is slightly different because of the grain of the wood.
We kept the coating to the minimum so that you could see and feel the grain. This is how collectors prefer to enjoy wooden items since we are closer to the texture of the wood.
In the picture below, you can see a prototype handle with no coating at all (this is not recommended for something we are going to touch repeatedly) and at the bottom, a handle with a clear water based urethane paint. Unfortunately the urethane coating prevents the scent of the wood to be noticeable but we needed some kind of protection for these handles.
The shape of the handles is very simple, this is because Yakusugi is very soft, so we need to keep them as thick as possible and not spend a lot of time trying to give them a shape that will cause more waste than anything else.
The handles have been made in Tokyo and the brushes in Kumano, the logo has been delicately lasered on the handles.
There is always a reason why the handles have a specific shape, or length; why the logo is that size; why sometimes it’s better to print than to laser. I do not take decisions based on costs, but because it has been recommended or we had no other choice, if you have any question with regards to the set or the Tower case I will be happy to answer.
If you know me, you know that I am very specific with regards to the functionality of a brush, this always comes first. There aren’t more brushes in the set because it was just insanely expensive so I had to come with two brushes that we would love to use. I decided on a blue squirrel soft tapered pencil brush and a saibikoho ball type of face brush, both brushes with round ferrules.
THE PENCIL BRUSH
It has a soft tapered tip and ideal density to perform an even and effortless application with powder shadows.
The best use is the lower lashline application, the outer v or the inner corner of the eye. You can see that it’s tapered but the point is not sharp, it has some body and density, this helps when you want movement in the brush but with a little bit more control and power at the very tip.
The pencil brushes have all been made by the same artisan, this reduces the chances of having a big difference between batches. We use natural bristles so each bristle is going to have a different thickness and firmness. There could be a slight difference in the shapes but we did all we could so that they are the most consistent possible.
I know some of you will ask me if this pencil brush is comparable to the Suqqu S brush. I took a picture of two of my Suqqu S brushes and this pencil brush. My intention is not to judge or rank but to show you if they are close in shape.
The Suqqu S brushes that I have differ quite a bit, my oldest is more tapered, my newest is very round. The ferrules are also a bit different actually in shape and measurements. I’ll say that my Yakusugi pencil is closer to the very first Suqqu S.
Just for information, in general, not only there is a tolerance margin for the ferrule manufacturers (not one ferrule is going to be surgically similar), but then the batches for the bristles are different, the artisans are different, for sure in such small brushes this is going to have an impact on the final shape of the brush.
Material: Blue squirrel
THE FACE BRUSH
We used saibikoho goat bristles for this brush. Saibikoho is one grade above saikoho goat.
Saibikoho is a selection of bristles extracted from saikoho bristles. However, I have to tell you that the quality of saibikoho bristles of 10 years ago does not feel like the saibikoho that can be obtained today in Kumano. If you are a collector, please do not expect the same quality as before but more closer to saikoho. Across the years there was quite a change across all materials, a decrease in quality and increase in costs. We sincerely did the best we could to pair these extraordinary handles with the best bristles we could realistically manage. Just for reference, I own saibikoho brushes that I paid at the time from 300 usd to 1200 usd per brush.
The good thing is that today, the bristles used here are more effective for their purpose. This was one of my concerns with the older saibikoho, the older saibikoho was extremely silky but not that versatile across formulas. This batch of bristles here can be used to give the brush a ball shape, which is usually impossible with extremely straight and fine bristles.
The bristles used for this Face brush are very fine but they work across many formulas, even baked gelees and hybrid type of powders. I don’t recommend it with creams because of the thinness of the bristles.
This strategic ball shaped brush is really versatile, for blush, contour, bronzer, highlighter, powder, it’s not big but it definitely can do a lot!
The bristles are about the same length as the Face Two but it splays out a lot more. The Face Two is more directional, where the Yakusugi Face brush is more airy. This makes the Yakusugi a bit better for a more diffused application.
The Lotus Cheek brush feels more dense and the Yakusugi Face brush has more movement.
The Yakusugi Face has layers of bristles that start further down and closer to the ferrule in comparison to the Master Face. It opens more than the denser Master Face.
The Yakusugi Face is a workhorse for so many tasks, it’s quite powerful and will apply and blend effortlessly so many different formulas, whether you are working with sheer or with bold products.
Material: saibikoho goat bristles
Maintenance and care
Maintenance and care are a very important topic when it comes to these brushes.
They can be washed, as usual, with your brush shampoo. Avoid getting the handles too wet and wipe them immediately.
Please never kick them against something to remove the excess product off the brushes- This is extremely important. The wood is very soft and delicate and doing that will damage them. You can for example blow on the brush to remove excess product should you need to.
These are not brushes to travel with, but to keep on your vanity in a container and ideally separated from other items or brushes.
The launch details
It was really the last call for creating something like this, combining those specific materials and involving these particular artisans, but I am very happy that in spite of all the challenges that it was possible to do it. Seeing this project has reached the launch phase feels extremely surreal.
The Yakusugi brush set will be available next Tuesday 21st of December 2021 for 245 usd, it is Limited Edition. The manufacturing of Yakusugi pieces is extremely difficult and due to the rarity of the wood, it’s very unlikely that we can release it again at a later date.
I hope that if you get this set, that you will love it and enjoy it for a very, very, long time!
Absolutely stunning release, Sonia! I can’t wait to get them (hopefully)!!
This set is absolutely beautiful. I am a collector of Fude brushes and appreciate the fine details. I’m also not above paying a premium for a gorgeous presentation box, especially one that is functional and will allow for further use. Do you have any plans to add additional squirrel brushes to your line?
Hi Shelly, great! I appreciate luxurious packaging but when I see the amount that gets wasted I’d rather invest a bit more and get something we can reuse, thank you so much for your understanding, I appreciate it! 🙂
Regarding the brushes, yes, I am trying to but only a couple, I’ll know soon if it will be possible.
Thank you so much for your kind comment!!
Happy to report back and say I was able to pre-order the set via Beautylish and won’t have to worry about it selling out before I was able to purchase. I am now impatiently awaiting its delivery!
I received my 1st Sonia G. Brush in last year’s lucky bag it is so soft doesn’t have hairs stickingcoit in love.
But I love brushes and something about duo fiber has me and noone not even Zoeva wasdoing face brushes in duo fiber oh I’m mistaken I think the other 2 Japenese companies do a few but the shapes were well not for me.
Then I saw Sonia,s Classic Base Miss Mel Thompson oh how I miss her, Kinky Sweats whom changed her name and lots of others have raved about her brushes .
Well when I used this brush applied my blush Iam not,kiddingone swipe and it was perfect .So the next day got out my much save for hourglass pallette which can go on strong sometimes went in like I do with other brushes and it was gorgeous not to dark not to light.I sat thinking as I am looking at this beautiful piece of artwork and yes Fudo to me is artwork and I so appreciate the ladies and gentlemen whom do this teadious work, I am convinced they have a passion for doing this as I cannot imagine the years it takes to learn. Like Lladro you don’t touch for years and years then you are allowed to start with their Nao line which is big on the West Coast you cannot get Nao inNy or Chic as go sorry for going off topic. But I could not wrap my mind around how it did my blush perfect I dated not touch so perfect. And the softness her brushes are what dreams are made of. I won,t mention any names because I love then as well but on both brushes I do not have stray hairs stiking out and for some reason even her eyebrush is softer. But Sonia is ahead of her time she saw the Market the need for them.I find them easier to care for and they move almost like an all natural brush. I can’t stop myself from just feeling it examing it.
Don’t hesitate you have to try these amazing. I hope Sonia makes so e more duo fiber in her line like mini booster would be nice to have all with the choice lol.
Sonia you are a genius.You had a passion and learned what shapes,heights etc. work.,You are very talented and so lucky you found your calling.I,believe we all have a talent and those that find it and use it are so lucky and to be able to do what you love doing but I am sure it is very hard work as well but once you see the finished product and the reviews I hope your heart and soul are filled joy, pride in how many people you are not only making happy but making their makeup application easier.
Thank you for your encouraging comment! It’s indeed my passion, I still have many things and many ideas so I really sincerely hope it continues and we can open new chapters, discover new artisans and so on. It’s very touching to receive such kind messages, they do fill my heart with joy so thank you from the bottom of my heart!
It’s not always an easy journey, I am really happy that you think about the hard work behind the scenes, for sure it’s not easy. I send you lots of love and my sincere wishes for a good strong health and success!
Yay!!! My dream brush shapes, handles and hair types! My unicorn! Can’t wait for the release Sonia!
I cannot wait to get my hands on these!
These brushes are gorgeous! Will you be releasing these shapes and hair types in the future with your normal handles?
Hi Suki, thank you! the pencil yes I am trying to, so providing it will be possible. At this moment I don’t know 100% for sure.
This sounds so exciting! Thank you for responding, Sonia!
I hope I get this set before it sells out
Am I understanding this correctly? You are using actual 1000 year old trees to cut down for your personal profit ??
Hello Kerstin, I think you have missed the part where I mention that we don’t cut down these trees, we use pieces or timbers from trees that have decayed due to weather conditions (for example typhoons, earthquakes, etc), these are preciously collected and taken care of until they can be used by people who dearly appreciate this wood. There is only very little wood available as you can imagine so the price is extremely high and it means also that the recovered pieces may have imperfections since it was recovered wood and not cut down. I copy below the part where I mention it and I hope this clears the misunderstanding.
“Yakusugi cedar wood comes from Yakushima island in Japan. Today this is a truly rare and sought-after wood because felling trees or cutting branches is not permitted since they grow in a designated UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. The wood that we can use is from trees that have decayed due to weather conditions or that has been found underground. It’s recovered, taken care of very preciously and then used for very special pieces, it’s truly insanely expensive and its value will only increase with time.”
Just received this set and it is so gorgeous! It’s everything you said it was, everything I had hoped for and more! Such a lovely presentation too. Thank you Sonia! This is my very first Sonia G purchase. You have made my Christmas special and memorable. from, Meredith in Washington State, USA
Hi Meredith, how are you? thank you so much for your purchase, so happy you are loving it! your comment makes my Christmas really joyful and I thank you so very much for that! Please take care of yourself and I wish you a very lovely Christmas!
Just finished reading the thank you note you sent to those of us fortunate enough to have been able to add this brush set to our collection. It’s obvious that you put all of yourself into each release, but this project seems especially meaningful to you. Congratulations on realizing your dreams and please add my sincere gratitude to the artisans who helped make this moment possible.
omg Arch… where have you been?
It has been a while, I am so happy that you are around, I hope all is well with you! I sent you a message when I was in New York but I am not sure you got it.
The artisans will be extremely happy to read your lovely comment, thank you again my dear and take care!
I forgot to ask, where can I buy the Lam Sam Yick brushes 901, 902? They are gorgeous!
Hi Meredith, oh dear.. I don’t remember exactly, some where picked by a friend of mine during one of her trips to Asia, others on Rakuten maybe, would you like me to find out where to get them?
I would love it if you could hunt these down for me! I have one, I think it’s the blush brush. Thank you so much Sonia, you are a doll!
I’m so sad I missed out on this. 🙁
Any chance of another release?
Thank you for teaching us about the precious wood and materials used to make these beautiful brushes. I’m so happy to own them, I’ve shown them to my children, hoping they will appreciate them as well. They truly are a work of art. I’m almost afraid to use them.
I’ve always loved your attention to detail, that every decision you make is based on what’s best for the design and function of your products. I’m so in love with this set, I haven’t used either brush yet, but they feel wonderful and I can tell they will be functional. Thank you again for such amazing brushes.