Koto Tsuchiya is Made of/Makes Dreams


We are fortunate enough to be on great terms with all of our vendors; most of them are actually good, long-lasting friends. A more recent addition to our "Friendor" list is Koto Tsuchiya --the craftsperson and lady-boss behind HARRYS Glass. We're pleased to have her in our creative ranks, and even more pleased that we can share  the interesting specifics of her process and personal history.

Better; for Living :  When / how did you start working with glass?

Koto Tsuchiya :  I started working with glass at 19. Until then, I was only generally interested in art. After graduating high school I went to a normal (non-art) university, but nothing I learned interested me. So, after three months, I quit university and was on NEET [Not in Education, Employment, or Training] for a while… like for a year? I was so sorry for my parents. They were really mad at me! Ha. One day, I saw some glass artists on a TV show, and at that moment I thought that "I have to do GLASS!" --that TV show changed my life!

The artist at work.

The artist at work.

B;fL :  In what way did you begin --was it immediately your desire to make jewelry, or are you also interested in creating vessels? 

KT :  I had no experience in glass, nor any other material.  I didn't learn art history, or know how to draw, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to get into an art university easily. So, I found a school specializing in glass (no entrance exam necessary!) and spent the next 6 years learning and practicing.


I used to make big art pieces and vessels, but am no longer able. My dream of becoming a glassblowing artisan (for vessels) ended when my pelvis was crushed in an accident 2009.  Heavy machinery fell on top of me, almost crushing my spine. I had to spend about 6 months lying down in bed. It's miraculous that I am still able to move my arms & legs!

During my hospitalization I thought about quitting glass work, but I decided to continue glass torch work, which I could do sitting down.  While recovering from my injury, I started to work on my "lace technique" more seriously.  

B;fL : What was your first project? The first one you were willing to share with others? 

KT : My first project was a leaf made of glass lace.  I started exploring my lace technique after I found a leaf, which only had veins left. This leaf made me realize and appreciate the beauty that plants hold, even after death. I was captured by the beauty of nature.

I also started focusing on making precise shapes (i.e. the BONBON: sphere and CIRCLE necklace). I strongly believe in the importance of my own technical skill, and I have practiced to perfect my techniques.


B;fL : What would you consider as "themes" in your work? What inspires you, visually?

Dandelion seed by Koto Tsuchiya

For both my products and art pieces, I consider the beauty of the nature (structure, color, texture etc…) as themes in my work. I'll take a walk and look out for beautiful natural objects, or search the internet and through books.  Although humans have developed so much technology and make many beautiful things, we are still no match for the beauty of nature.

For my products, I place high importance on technical skill and versatility of the design, shapes, and uses.  For my art works I forget the conditions that I mentioned above; instead I experiment, challenge myself, and play. I make what I want. 


B;fL : Where do you work? Do you have a studio setup? What's it like?

KT : I have a studio in my parking space.  I live in a rented house, so everything is temporary right now [emphasis ours].  I want, one day,  to have my own house and studio --and have it the way I want!

B;fL : Where do you stand in terms of the use of color? Have you experimented much (or any) with it? 

KT : I usually use transparent glass, simply because I like it the best [so do we].  But it doesn’t mean that I won’t use color.  I’ll use color if it enhances a piece --though some colors aren’t suitable for the subtle, detailed process of lace making.



B;fL : Art or artisanship? Do you see any difference?

KT : There’s a lot to the ART v.s. craft/artisanship issue, but to be honest I don’t really care.  Nowadays, anyone can call themselves an ‘artist’ or their work ‘ART’, no matter their technical skills.  I strongly believe that having a high technical skill is very important.  Deep knowledge of a material gives us more opportunity and possibility for creation.  Whatever we call ourselves, we must always challenge ourselves to improve.

Candles: A Love Story

Nobody would ever guess that our super-cute best-selling candles started out as a performative joke we dubbed ‘Chapstick Mountain.’ We started making candles as a break from drywalling and painting while renovating the store; --when looking for a use for some twenty pounds of unfiltered beeswax they sort of just happened. We dabbled in a few other shapes and wick layouts, but we realized that what we wanted to make was something small, affordable, unique, fun.  What we have created is a beautiful conduit for wax flow —since nobody doesn’t like playing with wax.

Our dear friends at The Understory caught us candle-making last month, and we've been beaming since we saw the results. Fabian, Maya, thank you.


We use beeswax because it’s simply the best, it’s natural [not a petroleum distillate or agriculture crushing mono-crop], burns the cleanest, and (allegedly) negatively ionized [we are skeptical]; we use linen wicks because they’re free of heavy metals, flat woven, unwaxed, and made of entirely organic fibers; we scent and color with natural herbs and oils because we believe in a holistically healthy and honest product. We strive to make a product that we ourselves want to use.

better <3 vejas

We never would have guessed that we would have spent last night rushing a special suite of candles to our new friends at Vejas for their Parisian showroom at LVMH headquarters (where they are shortlisted for the prestigious LVMH prize)... but then again, all things seem possible when you work diligently and do what is needed.  Here's to afterthoughts that become staples. Here's to making things (Better). 

vejas candles lvmh better for living

Candles are available in store, online, and now at The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, NY. 

Creativity in the Catskills

Nestled in Delaware County, in New York's Catskill Mountains, Kelli Cain and Brian Crabtree live a contemporary dream.  Makers, doers, and friends, their talent is only matched by their warmth (especially in the coldest season).

As if to reaffirm their incredible hospitality, they opened their cozy farm home --they built the entire place themselves, by the way --to photographer and fellow Better buddy Sasha Lytvyn and Berta Bernad for a Woolrich campaign that was later featured on

As Kelli and Brian travel West to escape the last of the Delhi winter, it feels apropos to feature some summarily summery prints by Sasha on the walls for our next Better; Gallery event. Because beachy photos and coastal California is about as West Coast as it gets.

Friday, February 19th: Brian and Kelli play a live set at Better. Be there.

Article No. Abroad

Hard work is… well, hard work is hard. It tires body and mind while constantly reminding one that the journey is hardly over –in fact it’s barely begun.  We hail the risk-taking entrepreneurs who spend every waking hour (and often dreaming ones, too) as our compatriots in frantic, though calculated, action.

Today we illuminate the hard work and accomplishments of our friends and collaborators at Article No. in their recent trip to Japan and China, where they work intimately with reputable production shops to create “elevated basics” that are sought after across the world, and worn by celebrities and sneaker-heads alike.

article number better for living

Hypebeast just featured Article No.’s clean, beautifully lit AW15 lookbook to overwhelming (but totally expected) excitement. Here on the Better Blog we are letting you in on the breakneck process going into building an effortlessly cool brand:



Article No. Abroad, as outlined by Ant de Padovane

article no. abroad

Day 1:  Arrived in Tokyo and went straight to our meetings, grabbed some drinks –this was our only real moment to chill, and it was more meeting and networking than relaxation.

Day 2:  Met with our distributor, who took us to all our top tier accounts to make intros. Was cool to see the shoes in store s and on mannequins, and the staff knew our faces. Big in Japan 😜

better for living article number

Day 3-8: China.  Every day for the next 5 days was get up at 6am, breakfast , then head to the factory for 14/15 hours to bang out work, finalize aw16 samples, visit the marketplace, concept and finalize materials and stories, trims and details, fix uppers patterns… Definitely all work and no play.

Back to Tokyo for a dinner with United Arrows / pre-Halloween party at Womb –then straight to the airport at 5am to LA.

Just another week in the world of one of the hottest new shoe labels: hard work done right.

All Work and No Play Makes You Better

When you work hard and do things with passion, long days go by quickly. 18 hour days are nothing to cringe at --they become the status quo. You start to wish you could be five of yourself at once, just to do all the things. Delegating isn’t an option when you are relentlessly meticulous –the only option is to work, and work well.

So we do. We work --with others who work as tirelessly and passionately as we do. From dedicated friends in the design field to creative collaborators in fashion, we surround ourselves with the inspired and industrious.

Doing it Ourselves, Together

Take the time necessary to do things right. Don’t rush. Never work anxiously, nor angrily –it shows in the final product. Resist the urge to compromise. Work well, whether alone or with others.  These are simple rules for creating, yet the hardest to follow.

Collaboration cannot be forced; it must be natural if it is to work well and convey quality.  Collective making, doing, and scheming are experiments in participation and reciprocity, this is why we are constantly seeking talented artisans to work with to make Better …well, better.  

We desire a balance –between artisan and artist, material and craft, whimsy and utility, being-there and becoming-something. Craftspeople, artists, artisans, and n’philes from all disciplines are invited and encouraged to approach us with either their ideas, aspirations, and plans for projects. We are excited by work.

Friends See Friends Naked

We are nothing if not products of process.  Nothing exists in static… everything is changing all of the time.  There is no perfect –no best –only better than before.  Ceaselessly self improving, we are cautious to show anything unfinished; however, we also know that nothing is finished until it is over...

...and we are just starting to grow.

In recognition of this beginning, Better is going to show our bones. Better; for Living is revealing itself to the public for the spectacle of the season: Halloween. Because nothing says scary like a black clad boutique… a skeletal select shop. So come see what’s under our black facade as we host an open house. It’s Better(:) Naked! This Friday, October 30th, 17-22 o’clock Friday. 3425 Balboa Street, SF CA 94121. You can come un/costumed. Also naked.

Do Better for Yourself

Through the act of making for ourselves and others, as well as appreciating those things made for us, we have come to believe that commodities invested –whether it is time, money, materials, or patience –for pieces made deliberately, constructed well, and accommodating of (ab)use are well worth it. Things done well take time and require work; we know this to be true. In this spirit, we stock limited release and custom wares that will work for you as much as you have worked for them.

It takes time to remodel, renovate, and reimagine. We welcome those who take that time.

In a culture of frantically fast and disposable materialism, we have grown weary. We have learned and lived an important truth: if you are to do something, do it right and without compromise; when you do, you have the privilege of living with your decision, rather than the burden of needing make another.

On Getting Better

better for living construction

Becoming Better doesn’t come easily; it’s an involved process that takes time, work, and prodigious planning. Better; for Living is a select shop that carries  unique art and objects that emphasize quality of wear and form. Collaborating with talented contemporary creators, Better; for Living facilitates the ever-changing environment of artisanship without the ego of the artist, focusing upon materiality over materialism.


Conceived of, designed, and built by Danielle Gaito and Giffen Clark Ott, Better is not simply a boutique, but an ever-changing exhibition of process –one that is meant to be shared.  We thrive upon creative collaboration –together we become Better. While we are firmly grounded in utility and quality of craft, Better is about balance, process, and a beauty that isn’t overwrought.



While we are under construction, we welcome you to come by 3425 Balboa Street, San Francisco to meet those working to make retail Better, and give us a follow at betterforliving.