Studio Visit: Hank By Henry, Handmade Chopsticks
If you open up your silverware drawer and see a collection of paper sleeve take-out or mismatched plastic chopsticks...listen up. It's the New Year and it's the NOW time to update your stick game....specifically with a handsome pair by Portland based studio HANK by Henry.
Velvety and full of personality, these handmade and hand painted chopsticks are the perfect edition to any table (or meal!). Curious what leads one into the work of creating such delicate tabletop items? We take a moment to chat with the culinary creative duo about process, staying inspired and what dishes pair best with these unique utensils.
Studio: HANK By HenryWho: Allison Henry & Chef Edward Ross Location: Portland, Oregon
Tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you found chopsticks as a way to express your creative vision.
Ed: As a Korean adoptee - I wasn’t introduced to chopsticks until a later stage in my life but I have a very strong sensory image about them that kind of evokes a certain feel and flavor and environment. As someone coming from a creative family, it became a way to create the things that I like to use in a way that i get to experience the start to finish of the process. Because I’m a professional chef - food and the culture surrounding food is inherently important to me.
Allison: I play the part of artist and designer who found this endeavor to be a way I could contribute to the handmade community. Its a way for me to take my art and lend it to a lifestyle craft business. They started as a happy accident because I like things that are close to hand but I’ve evolved the aesthetic to allow me to travel outside my comfort zone and foster my desire for surprise. HANK to this point has been a culmination of a personal artistic challenge backed by the decision to make bitchin’ hand-crafted chopsticks instead of importing them. They’re these fancy little sticks of wood but they’re incredibly functional and will be in your kitchen for a long time.
Favorite thing to eat with chopsticks?Allison: Kim chi and cheddar on rice (if there’s not a tortilla around to make quesadillas with). What we eat most with them around the house: pho, tricked-out instant ramen, rice or salmon sashimi Ed: Depends on the chopsticks. Plastic: pho with brisket and tripe… HANK sticks: hot soba noodles with daikon and green onion.
How do you stay inspired and keep the work coming out of your studio fresh? Is there a particular soundtrack or type of caffeinated bevvy that keeps you on track while getting down to business?Ed: PBR, NPR and Damian Marley. The international community doing amazing things and sharing their work - especially the people i’m following on instagram. Allison: Dance jams and red wine. I keep it fresh by pushing boundaries… I like to create pieces that people cherish and to try and create something they’ve never seen as a chopstick. That these little eating utensils can be an expression of your style - they all have unique personalities on purpose. I like to draw a fine line between wacky and chic :) HANK lies somewhere between.
Where’s your favorite spot near your studio to take a creative break? What should we order?Ed: sushi go-round for lots of salmon sashimi and crisp beer - OR - Biwa for Ramen and Jinro Allison: a mid day slice and a beer at Sizzlepie - OR - Cyril’s for an impeccable glass of wine and hand-selected cheese at the end of the day
We are particularly fond of the LELA chopsticks - they might be our utensil spirit animal. If you could pair these aesthetically with the perfect dish, what would it be?Allison: Something bold and bright… a cucumber salad with vinaigrette Ed: Cherry blossom and chestnut rice with oysters on the half shell. Floral and slightly fruit-forward… with a pretty pink hue, it’s usually garnished with flecks of bright green shiso.
What's next!? Any dream projects or collaborations on your wish list?Allison: We’ve only just started - in a lot of ways I feel like HANK’s chopsticks were just a creative catalyst for much broader intentions. I can’t stop thinking about hand-printed soft goods and smooth chic wooden jewelry. Ed: As a person who spends most of my days around food and cooking, i’m deeply enamored by cutlery.. especially Japanese. I’d like to be able to craft Saya and handles for Japanese style knives.