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These beautiful little Japanese wooden name stamps typify what Oku Den is all about.  They sit in an equally beautiful antique Japanese cabinet in the centre of the store. There are thousands of name stamps in all. The stamps were registered and used in place of signatures for cheques and legal documents many moons ago. A beautiful piece of furniture with a history and a story woven into it. The name of the shop suggests this quality. The name Oku Den relates to achievement in Martial Arts. Once you reach the Oku Den you’ve attained a level of understanding the hidden mystery.  It’s the ultimate. Most of the wares in the shop have a hidden mystery. History that is not immediately obvious.

I was fascinated by these beautiful Katagami papers.  They’re old original screens for printing Japanese fabric. Some are framed while others live in huge drawers ready for framing or other creative uses. They have a fragile beauty. The shop owner, Oku, uses the fabric designs for printing on tights… how gorgeous.   The story goes that designers would often burn the papers once the fabric had been printed so that others couldn’t copy their designs. It’s a miracle that any remain.

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Another of Oku’s wonderful products begins in these drawers containing old typewriter keys.  She cleverly fashions the keys into jewellery… funky, fun, jewellery. It’s a feather in her cap that Tarrawarra Museum of Art sell these pieces in their museum shop.  She tells a story of the first time she was allowed to use her Grandmother’s old typewriter.  She loved the look of it but most of all the clacking sound and the inevitable bell that sounded at the end of a line of words…magic.  There’s that hidden meaning again.

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I loved these wooden poem brooches.  Some of the  calligraphy is so old that it requires an expert to decipher it.

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Oku has a whole letterpress in the corner of the shop. The individual letters are used to make jewellery.

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Yuki Wallen (below right) met Oku (on the left) just before Oku Den opened. Yuki was looking for an outlet for her textiles and approached Oku to see if she was interested.  Today Yuki occupies the studio above Oku Den.  She makes bags and aprons from kimono fabric.  She loves making things from Japanese fabric so she can think of home and be in touch with her heritage. She fits perfectly into the ethos of the shop.

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Oku has recently returned from a trip to New York.  She’s eagerly awaiting a delivery of the treasures she bought for Oku Den while she was there.  There will be jewellery made from the spokes of wheels…”Spoken” and clothing from hip happening young New York designers.

Oku Den sits in a  little courtyard within the Hurstbridge shops.  On the Artists Open Studios weekend at the end of this month, a visit is a must. Incidentally, the cafe next door offer a killer “big breakfast”.

Oku Den, Studio 4/850 Main Road, Hurstbridge, Vic.

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