MATSUMOTO | EARLY HUES

PHOTOS: Max Houtzager

LOCATION: Matsumoto, Nagano

The story of Early Hues follows a winding, natural path from idea to inception.

What started as a small print project in Tokyo quickly developed into a hardcover book that aims to defy convention. When our collaborators delivered content that spanned genres, emotions, lighting, and places, we knew we had to design with every intent to do them justice. Okamura San began helping with design in her spare time which soon led to conversations with her favorite printer in Nagano.

We set out to create something new, that would be a physical extension of the Terasu ethos and an artful artifact that can stand alone. Everything had to be responsibly produced with care and attention to detail. The design and concept developed organically over time, parallel to the relationships between directors, designers, and printers; as each party began to understand the other more fully, things became more defined and a half-developed idea for a hardcover book came to fruition in the clearest way possible. Everything began to feel right. The printer’s understanding of our vision enabled them to offer different workflows, materials, and features, pushing elements of the design farther where beneficial and offering flexibility where they could sense more breathing room was needed.

Fujiwara Printing started in the 1950s when great grandmother Fujiwara purchased a typewriter. The company grew over time and expanded from its first plot of land into what it is today. Just last year it added a second print building with a new carbon neutral German printer, though the factory’s location has not changed since it was started seven decades ago. It is nestled next to a river at the foot of the Japanese Alps’ finest mountains. And the town of Matsumoto is a center for Japan’s finest crafts, from contemporary boutique shops to traditional artisans. As our relationship with Fujiwara deepened, we simultaneously learned more about their company history and began to understand their capabilities and goals moving forward, all while connecting with the inspirational place they call home.

Though we are one of Fujiwara’s smallest clients, when it finally came time to print, they invited us to visit the factory. Spending a night away from Tokyo in the mountains to meet the print team was an easy decision. As the first ever foreign client to visit the factory, we were treated with the highest level of respect and omotenashi. After exploring the refined array of goods and makers of Matsumoto, we visited Chez Momo, a confiturier that Okamura San previously featured in a Tokyo-based publication. There, it was clear that Tomoyuki San took care at every turn to make Chez Momo special from the array of seasonal ingredients and constantly changing recipes, handmade labels, and his stern yet playful personality. We enjoyed whiskey lemon and grapefruit kiwi shrubs. Summer orange chocolate ginger confiture surely made its way into our bags to deliver some Matsumoto vibes to the workplace and close friends.

Most of the factories in Nagano are near the city, so the fact that Fujiwara’s factory is in Matsumoto is a beautiful anomaly. For Suzuki San, the factory manager and print director, this anomaly is a dream come true. Suzuki San is from Tokyo but quickly found a variety of passions tied to the outdoors and craft. After a brief stint living in Hokkaido riding motocross bikes while working in architecture and graphic design, his interest in climbing and backcountry skiing brought him to Matsumoto, where he started at Fujiwara.

When he isn’t using his natural gift for matching design, materials, and vibes, he tends to his natural bread starter and shoots film on a Hasselblad. He moved to Matsumoto to be in the center of ‘a mecca of mountains,’ but still makes sure to travel outside Japan once a year, alternating between climbing trips to the Dolomites and Yosemite. While we printed Early Hues, his attention to detail and perspectives on the world became crystal clear. “It’s a constant balance between adjusting for what looks natural versus maintaining the photographer’s style. For the former, all of your life experiences up to the present, as well as the current environment you find yourself in, affect what you think is natural.” Early in the day Okamura San and I closely watched the pages fly out of the machine to make sure the recipes looked tasty but not oversaturated, the black and white images had contrast but kept detail in the highlights and shadows, and the vibe of each story would maintain the photographers’ original aesthetics as the book flows from matte to glossy to Japanese craft paper and finally to a more textured matte stock. The final level of trust was established as we checked off several color samples and saw that Suzuki San could see our creative vision with uncommon clarity. Ultimately, we gave him the final say on each proof. The process was as much a piece of art as the final product, and we are already scheming ways to do it again.

Early Hues will be available for preorder via our store on Wednesday, June 22nd.

One of four plates (CMYK) for each set of pages

Making aluminum plates that eventually get recycled into window blinds

Suzuki San, Fujiwara Printing

CMYK Offset Printing

Okamura San, Designer for Early Hues