The wood used for the handles of the Yakusugi Brush set and for this Tower Case is the same type. Just like for the Yakusugi Brush set, I need to talk about Yakusugi wood, mentioning the same story as for the Brush set but highlighting the specific aspects of this Tower Box.
The first time I heard about Yakusugi wood was in 2014 when I was gifted a brush set with Yakusugi handles. After this, I would occasionally ask my contacts in Japan to create some bespoke brushes with this wood for my personal use. For me it was the “gold” of the woods.
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, only the trees older than 1000 years of age are labelled authentic yakusugi. If it’s a younger cedar -under 1000 years old- it’s called Kosugi. Younger trees are called Jisugi. During the making of this project I have been told that some could 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 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 piece.
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.
These properties come very handy for this Tower Case as it will help protect our most precious brushes or the items we wish to store inside.
What truly mesmerizes me is the scent that Yakusugi has. It’s not really noticeable on the brush handles because they have been coated since we are touching them continuously and not always with the cleanest hands, the coating protects them. However, we wanted this Yakusugi Tower Case to be able to give you this olfactory experience and I will explain what makes this possible.
Yakusugi scent is known to be very calming, comforting and soothing. I heard it was used to alleviate anxiety, stress and nervous tension. I find this scent inspiring, almost intoxicating in a very good way. It’s difficult to explain, it has a floral woody note, sweet but spicy, it’s so recognizable.
I did the design of the Tower and took my inspiration from Kumano, I love walking and looking at the architecture and the design of the traditional roofs in this little town.
You can lift the top part of the tower and reveal the brushes or items that you have inside. It’s really a small container but you can imagine the cost of this wood so it was not possible to envision something any larger.
This Tower Case comes in three parts, when you open the Tower there is a separate container inside that I call “basket”.
You will notice that the outside of the Tower has been coated with the clear urethane water paint but the inside of the Tower, as well as all the basket have been left pure so that we would be able to touch yakusugi, feel its texture and be able to experience its scent.
The basket is not meant to be used on its own outside of the Tower, it is to be kept inside the Tower. There is a tab on the basket for you to grab it and lift it.
I wanted you to truly experience the yakusugi scent, so the artisan had the idea to make the inner basket removable. This gives us more surface and we can boost the yakusugi scent – which will also transfer onto the brushes stored inside the Tower.
Since the basket inside is not coated, there is a difference in the wood color of the inner basket versus the outside of the Tower Case.
The bottom of the basket has been lasered with the logo.
And at the bottom of the Tower Case, the number has been also lasered.
I have two of these Towers, the #001 which was the prototype and I have another one from the final production. The only change from the prototype to the final production is the engraving of the logo at the front, we changed the size of the font but otherwise it is exactly the same piece.
Here are some angles to show you the grain and the structure of the Tower, the grain will of course change and be different on each Tower.
This piece is mainly for decorative use but, as its name implies, can hold some brushes – up to 155mm, it’s not to be filled with brushes but to keep only a few.
It is made from extremely rare and delicate very old wood so it would be better to not handle it every day (especially with makeup / cream covered hands).
It needs to be stored in a safe place and handled with extreme care, if it falls it will be damaged. It can be displayed closed as a Tower, or opened to display your brushes.
I have one in my office, in a glass cabinet, sometimes I move it onto my desk and open it because I just want to enjoy it and smell it. The other one is going to go in the living room and I will keep some of my Yakusugi brushes inside.
THE MASTER ARTISAN
These Tower cases have been handcrafted to the highest levels by Mr Tenou himself, which makes these pieces even more valuable and special. He is a very renowned master artisan, so passionate and so incredibly talented, he is actually 82 years old. I was supposed to meet him in person this year but the travel restrictions caused my flight to be cancelled, I had to work with him remotely but I will definitely meet him in person as soon as I can fly to Japan again.
I can already imagine how excited I will be comtemplating all his artwork and the little pieces of wood there! I hope he will let me spend some time there with him.
This project took time and a lot of effort but I was extremely delighted to see Mr Tenou so excited to work on this Tower Case, he usually works on much much bigger projects. It is an honor to be able to present this to you and I feel incredibly blessed that it can have my logo on it.
It was really amazing to have him work personaly on this Tower because I understood that he is about to leave his company to his son. Also, yakusugi wood has become way too rare to plan this type of projects in the future. It was a miracle that he had some and that is how I found him!
There were only 12 Tower Cases handcrafted, because of the costs and the time it takes to make each one. I have one of the prototypes and one from the final production, so two in total. Beautylish have one. We will have 9 pieces available for this launch, all numbered at the bottom.
It is Limited Edition, it is a very expensive piece but it has been priced really good for what it is, and for what it costs to bring this to life. I wanted to keep this Tower Case as accessible as possible financially, it is a passion project, not driven by profit. Mr Tenou made just a few for us in case there were some passionate souls out there that wanted to get this or gift it to someone special this Holiday.
The technical Specifications
- Height of the tower: 250mm
- Width : 106mm
- Depth : 66mm
- Roof width and depth: 93mmx132mm
- Max height for items stored inside: 155mm
- Weight : 360g
- Basket Dimensions:
1 compartment of 33.6mm x 43.5mm
1 compartment of 33.6mm x 24.9mm
Care and maintenance
Because wood is a natural material, we recommend keeping your Tower case in a cool, dryish place away from heat and excessive moisture. Rapid changes in heat and moisture levels should be avoided wherever possible.
To open the Tower for the first time, gently remove the tapes that are placed on the sides. Be careful when doing so because the top of the Tower is not attached with anything else, it’s just slotted in position, it can easily fall over if you tilt it too much.
It has to be displayed in a place that is safe, where there is no risk of it being kicked by accident.
The Yakusugi Tower Case comes in a paulownia box, with a red and white sanada thread around it to secure it.
This Sanada thread (or sanada himo if you wish to google it) comes from Kyoto, it’s a very traditional Japanese item with a very interesting history. They are often used by artisans to tie around the boxes of their art pieces.
This piece will be available on the 21st of December 2021 on Beautylish, the price will be 550 usd, it is Limited Edition and numbered at the bottom.