Discovering OKA craftsmanship
Have you ever wondered what goes into the making of a piece of OKA furniture, or the design of an accessory?
Well, it’s a process that sees our buying team – led by OKA’s three founding directors Annabel Astor, Sue Jones and Lucinda Waterhouse – journey to the farthest corners of the globe in search of skilled craftsmen and women with whom to collaborate. Many of these artisan makers work in the traditional manner, often by hand, preserving skills that have in many cases been lost elsewhere. It is this combination of craftsmanship and design expertise that makes OKA unique.
The Isphahan Range
Take our Isphahan range of china tableware and accessories. Five years ago our team came across a little studio, almost by accident. This studio was manufacturing beautiful pottery the old fashioned way, with intricate decoration painstakingly applied by hand. We had been looking to create a Persian inspired range of china but the intricacy of the design required an uncommon level of skill. This little studio turned out to be the answer and we’ve been working with them ever since.
Block Printing Fabric
Block-printing fabric the traditional way, using hand-carved wooden blocks, is a vanishing art. We work with a team in India that use organic vegetable dyes to hand-print our cotton fabrics. We have to consider the seasons when we order, as after printing all the fabrics are left to dry in the sun, so come the rainy season, production stops!
We use a range of materials to craft our pieces – many of which are naturally sourced – to create authentic and unique finishes. We believe the beauty of our pieces lies within their differences, offering reassurance that these pieces are not mass-produced and that the creation of each piece has taken time and exceptional skill. We’ve tables made from recycled wood which feature pock marks and knots; woollen rugs which have been coloured using vegetable dye and left to fade naturally in the sun; and Tussah silk cushions which have slubs or small ladders – a characteristic of raw silk. All these details are not flaws: it is these individual qualities that makes each piece very special.
Due to the hand-made nature of our pieces, no two items will feature identical designs. Whether dyed, carved, printed, painted or stitched, there will be some degree of variance from piece to piece. Many of our most popular throws and rugs were inspired by traditional Indian or Turkish designs, and are still made today using the original manufacturing methods. We try to incorporate traditional and modern designs across our collection of furniture and accessories, and are always exploring new techniques to achieve a different finish or effect.
It was only after months of searching that our team came across a family business (run by a mother and her two sons) with the right expertise for our Chinoiserie furniture and accessories. A shared passion for 18th century Chinoiserie led to an incredibly fruitful collaboration that has resulted in some of OKA’s best-loved pieces, such as the Peking Hand-painted TV Cabinet, the Han Chinese Cabinet and the Trio Side Table. These beautiful designs feature tableaux of traditional Chinese scenes, hand-painted in gold leaf, and command the respect of a genuine antique. If you want to learn more about our the history behind Chinoiserie, it’s well worth reading our fascinating interview with Vivian Tong, Junior Specialist in Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art from Sotheby’s London.
Look behind any of our furniture and accessories and you will find similar stories. Each piece could tell a tale: of travel, of collaboration, of trial and error and a degree of luck in some cases, but above all, of the successful marriage of traditional craftsmanship and serious design. We think you’ll agree that a lot of love, care and exceptional skill goes into making of our pieces, and that the finished work of art is definitely worth the wait.