Sunday, September 28, 2014


From the 19th century, a Japanese "shop box" with plenty
of history and character.
A few days ago I promised I would soon reveal the purchase I made at Kyoto Arts and Antiques. Ta-da: It’s a Japanese “shop box” (according to the tag) from the 19th century.

You may recall that about a year and a half ago, I found a Hello Kitty Pez dispenser set/lunch box for my (then) manageable ink collection. As you might guess, my collection almost immediately outgrew the box. Since then I’ve been using a variety of plastic storage bins, which are serviceable but not esthetically pleasing. I wanted something functional yet interesting – something with a little history and character.

I’m not an antique collector or shopper, but for the past year and half I’ve had my eye open for a box, small cabinet, set of drawers or something else that would be “just right.” My criteria for “just right” included a reasonable price, modest overall dimensions to fit in my small studio and, most important, the right interior dimensions to accommodate my collection of elegant yet relatively tall bottles of Pilot Iroshizuku inks.

Some of my favorite inks, including the
elegant yet relatively tall Pilot Iroshizuku
ink bottle.
That last criterion turned out to be the tough one. I spotted a number of small Japanese chests of drawers (shop boxes, stationery cases, sewing boxes, etc.) that appealed to me and that seemed ideal, but the drawers were often too shallow. I cut out a cardboard template the height of the Iroshizuku bottle and started carrying it around in my bag at all times, just in case I happened to stumble upon the just-right thing, so I could check the depth on the spot. (We all know the No. 1 rule for antique shopping: If you want it, you have to buy it then and there, or it will probably be gone later.)

My contemporary inks and pens filling ink-stained drawers
well-used by a kindred spirit.
Finally last Thursday I found it: a small chest that fits well in my studio and has drawers just deep enough to hold all my ink bottles (with some room to grow! But fortunately, not much). What’s more, the shallow top drawer is just right for my fountain pen collection. The finish is substantially worn and the top handle is missing, giving it wabi-sabi appeal (as well as an affordable price). Bonus: All the drawer interiors are ink-stained! This “shop box” was once used by a kindred spirit to hold ink, brushes and pens.


  1. Awesome, TIna. Looks expensive but also worth every penny. I have a 4-drawer oak cabinet that originally held Dewey Decimal System cards and use it to store my inks. Those pesky bottles do always seem too tall for standard drawers.

    Cheers -- Larry

  2. Neat box ..... I love old things. Good thing. Because everything I own is fast becoming old, including me ....


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