Kaiseki and the sublimity of simplicity

I think it's fairly obvious to most that I am pretty drawn to Japanese design and philosophy but maybe lesser known that my time in Japan instilled in me a deep love of its food and food traditions. One of the most magical being Kaiseki. The very rudimentary definition of kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal by way of a collection of exemplary skills and techniques. It's a very sophisticated experience and has been compared to Western haute cuisine. But that's not the most compelling part to me. There's a philosophy in the progression of the food that is not dissimilar to certain aspects of metal-smithing. In kaiseki, sashimi always precedes grilled or steamed courses and fried foods always follow that. When designing a piece of jewelry there is a very ordered list of steps as well. In particular there is a distinct process involved in the act of soldering and if you move through each of the steps thoughtfully things will literally flow, but if you get sloppy and distracted and try and move too quickly everything just falls apart, or more likely melts together in a lump. In both metal-smithing and kaiseki, there is an order, but within that order, in modern kaiseki and jewelry design anyway, there is a great deal of creativity. Everything has to be connected together, and there has to be a flow. 

bolo, olive wood, Marin County CA

bolo, olive wood, Marin County CA

The philosophy of kaiseki is that we are supposed to represent the area we are living in. When I was working for an olive oil producer on a ranch in West Marin, California I used what was in front of me to create my designs, making the best use of my situation and the uniqueness of my provenance. In kaiseki it is the melodic weaving together of what the seasons bring that makes the meal truly exalted. Kaiseki is about using the best ingredients available and presenting them without ruining their textures and flavors and using different methods to enhance those ingredients. When I worked on the olive ranch I took great pleasure in extrapolating on the beauty of the olive tree, from the delicate limbs to the grounding roots to the strong and resilient trunks to the delicate grace of the leaves. In kaiseki tradition it is believed that the integrity of the ingredients should never get lost. In Japanese it's called "sozai wo manors", which means, "to protect the ingredients."

Silver and olive wood ring, from decayed root ball, Marin County CA 

Silver and olive wood ring, from decayed root ball, Marin County CA 

olive leaves, copper and brass 

olive leaves, copper and brass 

I no longer work on a ranch and my materials are derived from my more urban environment of San Francisco right now but I still cherish the same philosophy and believe in representing the area where I am living. Whatever elemental source I'm pulling my material from it is my desire to see the calm in people's faces when they look at a bag or piece of jewelry whose design is so simple that it seems to speak to them on some level that cuts through the complications and chatter of life to make way for the sublimity of simplicity.

Warrior bag made from a Japanese pattern

Warrior bag made from a Japanese pattern

Warrior bag

Warrior bag

leather and spike cuff, the sublimity of simplicity

leather and spike cuff, the sublimity of simplicity

Christina Cavallaro