With Dwell on Design just two weeks away, I've been keeping busy keeping in touch with panelists. I'm excited that Keiko Shinomoto, co-owner of Tortoise and Tortoise General Store, will be joining me on Saturday, June 27 for my Design Finder panel. There, along with Fitz of Fitzsu and Andy Griffith from A+R, we'll be chatting about how these stores came to be, what criteria they look for when choosing a product to sell or a designer to work with, their most recent design purchases—for Shinomoto, its her MacBook—and more.
Shinomoto and her husband, Taku, moved from their native Japan to Venice, California in 2003. The couple had both formerly worked at IDEE in Tokyo—Keiko in the store and coordintaing exhibitions, Taku leading the furniture and product design teams—and transferred their skills to opening their own store, Tortoise, which specializes in Japanese and Japan-related products. In 2008, they expanded their store to a second location, where they introduced an art gallery. They moved their high-design items, as well as the name Tortoise, to the new location and renamed their original shop the Tortoise General Store, where they carry general and daily-use products.
Among the products the couple sells, ranging from bags made of an ancient Japanese textile called "Shina Cloth" to ceramic soy sauce pots, the most popular at the Tortoise General Store are the tenugui clothes. Graphically bold, these multi-purpose clothes look like remnants of fabric but are used as handtowns, bath towels, or even as mix-and-match table napkins.
Keiko is currently longing for snow season ("My husband and I are crazy about snowy mountains," she says) over any other product or furnishing but promises to share a few of her favorite designers and goods on the stage at DOD. For more information, visit dwellondesign.com.