Ai & Om Knives is a Japanese knife shop opened by chef Douglas Chang to share his passion for quality edged tools and sharpening with Vancouver’s food, knife and woodworking community. His interest in hand crafted knives began and developed over his career in the kitchens of New York, Toronto and Vancouver where he valued the art of the tools in practice and where his skills for hand sharpening developed into a service, which is well respected by his peers.
Ai & Om offers a collection of tools ranging from knives, axes, chisels and planes from small production blacksmiths, sharpening stones and other high quality culinary and woodworking tools which are primarily of Japanese origin such as Takeda, Konosuke, Akifusa and Nenohi.
With over 13 years of chef experience in professional kitchens including New York’s Eleven Madison Park and Vancouver’s West, Bambudda, and Sai Woo, owner Douglas Chang draws upon his extensive culinary knowledge when handpicking crafted knives by Japanese blacksmiths. He sources his knives directly from Japan, working with family-run shops in which the craft has been passed down through generations, often over hundreds of years.
The shop is situated at street level in a storefront which corners into an internal courtyard within Vancouver’s Chinatown and compliments the neighbouring tea shops and traditional homeware shops.
Scott & Scott Architects designed the space in a manner which exhibits the knives’ object quality within a system of cases which have been designed to both display and store the select inventory.
The design objective was to concentrate the modest budget into the functional display elements. The as-found space was stripped of earlier tenants embellishments, the building shell was painted white and the existing concrete slab ground and stained black. Windows and internal doors were screened in jute panels which were indigo dyed in the architect’s studio.
The yellow cedar and leather display cases were detailed in a manner that allows for their use as both wall and floor displays. These cases are mounted to a frame structure constructed of grey lye-washed ash and blacked steel fastened together with cutler bolts for consistent and interchangeable assembly.
Ash pegs with magnetic mounts allow for the knives to be displayed above a waxed leather matt.
The wall shelving is constructed of 7m lengths of planed yellow cedar boards from the northern part of Vancouver Island. They were spaced to allow for the configuration of shelves in a variety of positions. Constant with the case finish; the dense, straight grained material is left unfinished to allow for the scent to be experienced and for the wearing surface to reflect the shop’s life.