Japan’s Lue Brass makes the best flatware and serving pieces. Here is our appreciation of this singular workshop and its products.
There’s this dream we have and maybe you share it, too, that the pots we make, along with things we sell like cast iron cookware and solid oak cutting boards, will live in our homes for a long, long time and maybe even get passed down to loved ones.
We can get pretty attached. When we know how something is made, the makers become part of our lives, too. That’s why we share their names and tell you so many stories about apprenticeships and family-run businesses that, generations later, are still making things the “old way” or finding ways to introduce current-day processes with integrity.
One of those is Lue Brass. In 2006, after completing a long apprenticeship with his father Masaaki Kikuchi, a master craftsman, Ruka “Lue” Kikuchi opened Lue Brass, a workshop that creates utensils and accessories out of brass in the Japanese city of Setouchi. All pieces are handmade and nothing leaves the workshop before it is inspected by Ruka himself.
Every object created by Lue Brass begins as sheets (or in some cases, a single sheet) of brass. Tools include molds, simple machinery and fire. Many, like the flatware set and spork, stack together easily. Hand-hammering gives each piece its distinctive shape. Those marks from the hammer make us want to go write a poem.
In 2010 Ruka won the Japan Mingei Museum Exhibition prize, which celebrates folk art, craft and design used in everyday life. About the objects presented by Lue Brass, Ruka told us, “We are very happy we can make products that are meant to last for generations. That is a good thing for us. Because that makes us proud and helps us work hard, keeping our focus and motivation up all the time.”
We love that these everyday objects of beauty are part of our lives and our homes. Thank you, Ruka.
What is Brass?
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. The stuff of coins and Roman helmets, plates on church floors to commemorate the dead, clocks from the 1600s that are still ticking, machinery in the mills where the Industrial Revolution started, the plumbing in your basement—it’s all made of brass.
Utilitarian, but beautiful, too. Over time, the copper in the alloy reacts with air and develops a natural patina. The surface deepens. It gets less smooth and shiny. There are plenty of ways to polish your brass pieces to restore it to its bright beginnings, but we love the worn-in feel of patina-ed cutlery—it keeps your table setting from ever feeling too stuffy.
Caring For Brass
We love brass. We’ve got some treasures from Japan’s Lue Brass in our Flatware & Utensils collection and we’re always on the hunt to add to our collections, scavenging the online antiques circuit and popping in the shops. We know there are some brass admirers out there who don’t buy pieces out of fear that they need expert levels of knowledge to take care of them. We’re here to say you don’t!
Here’s the most important thing: brass should never go into the dishwasher. Ever. Not even once. It'll start pitting, which means little holes will form all over the surface. We do not want this!
Some people think there will need to be regular ritual polishing sessions that if skipped will bring about the end to the loveliness of their brass pieces.
Not so. Your brass will patina. It’s natural. It's what brass is supposed to do. Once it goes through an awkward teenage phase of being splotchy in some places and shiny in others, it'll all even out to a muted, worn brown-gold that we think is just gorgeous.
Like Them Shiny?
If you want to buff it up now and again to bring back the shine, though, choose one of these options:
The Do-It-Yourself: Create a paste with baking soda and lemon juice. Use a soft cloth and run the paste in circles on your brass until it's shiny, shiny, shiny.
The Shopper’s Special: Same soft cloth, same circular motion, but with Bar Keepers Friend Soft Cleanser or other brass polish found at your hardware store.