Hamono Studios importing and retailing artisan Japanese knives, kitchenware and gifts
Who and what is Hamono Studios?
Hamono Studios is a Japanese-Australian business importing and retailing small batch artisan Japanese knives, kitchenware and gifts.
‘Hamono’ is Japanese for ‘blade’ or ‘bladed tool’ and refers to knives and other bladed things: scissors, secateurs, and so on. As well as blades, we bring consciously crafted, lasting functional Japanese products with their traditional beauty to modern Australian life.
Our story and what motivated us to start the business
Our owner Youki grew up between Japan and Australia. She has always loved bringing joy to people with beautiful things, and in 2019 she was visiting a trade show in Melbourne for her retail florist when she met a Japanese artisan knife maker and the representative of the local bladesmith association in Japan. They had beautiful handmade knives on display, and were looking for someone to help them into the Australian market. Within the Australian trade fair environment, Youki quickly saw that they were Japanese and was drawn to them and their products.
The products connecting to the culture
The beautiful kitchen knives were displayed alongside different traditional garden snips, thread snips, folding knives and innovative mini blades. This meeting was a chance for Youki to connect with the culture she’d known growing up with in Japan, and share this traditional craftsmanship with the people and culture she lived amongst in Australia. Thus was Hamono Studios born as the Oceanian wholesaler and distributor for the bladesmith association, and it has continually developed and evolved since 2019.
Challenges for our business and the market
The knife making industry is struggling against both the ageing population and also increasing urbanisation. Knives like ours are handmade in small workshops in rural Japan, and as younger people move away to big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, fewer families continue family businesses like smithing, handle-making and lacquerware. When artisans age and become unable to continue their work, if there is no apprentice ready to take over, that’s the end of their products. In the short time we’ve been operating, one maker was forced to retire and their products are no longer available.
With the advance of technology and the internet, as with every artisan business, there is also increased competition against products being produced more cheaply elsewhere.
Hamono Studios started out with the support of a small number of friends, family and team members from her retail business. Almost immediately after the business started, it was 2020 and the Covid pandemic hit, meaning trade shows and events were cancelled and postponed. As we nevertheless grew and our stockists continued selling the products, it became clear that our makers in Japan were struggling to keep up with demand and the bladesmith association eventually asked us to discontinue our wholesale operations. This has meant an urgent need to transform and as well as the switch to retail only, we are also in the process of reshaping the business.
The rising cost of living is another big challenge, causing people to think twice about their purchases.
Opportunities for our business and the market
2023 is a time of big change! Let’s start with the little things. Without wholesale, we are no longer restricted by the need to keep our prices high for our stockists and we can change prices and bring in special discounts much more freely. We don’t have to hoard our stock for big wholesale orders. We are more independent and can put on little events and pop-ups, collaborating with businesses we like. And we don’t have to worry about whether those businesses are too close to our other stockists 🙂
We’ve also now got the freedom to totally reshape the business if and when we want to. So if we find a new product or service we like, we can be creative and think about how to gradually reshape the business and make it what we want it to be – rather than trying to make it fit into our previous image. Of course this process of change comes with its own challenges too, but we see more and more every year that we need to keep changing and growing.
While being open to change, this has also been a chance to reflect on what’s important to us in our business. To us, that’s bringing consciously crafted, beautiful Japanese functionality to the lives of people in modern Australia.
Advice to others about business
Maintain your relationships with all your stakeholders. This is important everywhere and most of all within the business. Communicating clearly will help you work productively together, to develop ideas, be creative and keep the business something you enjoy coming back to.
As well as being a business, it’s a job and a workplace where you are spending your precious time. So look after each other, stay in touch with your vision and regularly revisit your plans to reach that vision. And above all, find a balance that works for your business between being persistent, patient, and flexible!