Ahhh, yes, great moments in our custom shoji business . . .

1) Fabric is that strong? Early in our career we stretched a batik mural Wren made into a softwood shoji frame with minimal grid. It took forever, but when we were finally done it looked great! But the next day, the shoji screen was a funny hourglass shape and that nice taut fabric was quite baggy. Back to the drawing board. . .

2) “You can’t get it into the room?” One of the amazing things about the using exotic hardwoods is we can make tracks in ONE piece up to 20 -25′ long. Unfortunately, we did some for a high-rise in New York City where the tracks would not fit into the elevator. Now, whether it’s an oversized panel (5′ wide or 10′ tall) or a long track (over 8′ long) we always ask about room access before we start designing your shoji panels…

3) Measurements reversed? A customer called us with some measurements for one more shoji door to go with the rest of her project we had measured earlier in the day. When we arrived at the job site weeks later for the shoji installation, we realized the width and height measurements were reversed. Sideways shoji anyone?

4) Which job is that? Although we have yet to send a job to the wrong customer, very often we have projects going for clients with similar names, e.g., two Sue’s, a Susan, and a Suzanne. We have had a few we had to restain or redo grid before it left the shop; seems like no matter what you do, sometimes it just gets too confusing! Another odd coincidence is that many times the panel sizes we are working on for different projects are nearly the same size. That keeps us checking the clipboards often too!

5) Freight “magic:” The 20′ long track we sent you arrived only 5′ long? The crate has forklift holes in it and you can see through the crate? Actually, I must say, the freight companies have been amazing. Very little damage has occurred over the years; I can count our claims on one hand. They are also great at evaluating our custom crating system and offering suggestions to help us keep this track record going.

6) Frame explosion: Always an exciting moment when you take a laminated curve off the form. Sometimes a curve just doesn’t take. . .

7) The paper poke: After a long and difficult installation, we accidentally poked a hole in the shoji rice paper. As the paper was supplied by the owner artist, it was simple to repair, but most embarrassing. It’s easier to puncture than you think!

8) Wrong insert: We once had a client call saying we had put in the wrong insert. When she sent her labeled insert sample to us, we discovered that her sample had been mislabeled. As our various insert samples are labeled in bulk, one type at a time, this one is still a mystery.

9) Grouted track: We preinstalled some floor track for a motorized shoji installation. After the tile floor was laid, we went back in and installed the shoji screens. But the shoji panels got jammed in the track even though the motors were working fine. Upon closer inspection, we realized the tile people had thoughtfully grouted the thin groove in our floor track. Although our bottom groove is quite small and resembles the gap between tiles, the groove is what our bottom rollers ride in to guide the shoji doors as they are slid. They had done such a neat job, it was a little sad to take it out and replace it with a new bottom track.

10) Backwards hardware: We had some beautiful stainless steel hardware on some deep red Jarrah shoji. The contractor called unhappy with the finish on some hardware trim. In describing the problem, we learned his crew had installed the final piece of trim wrong side up. These were huge, heavy doors and it was a tough installation. So we both were thrilled that this was the only problem encountered. Best of all, it was easily fixed!

I don’t know about you, but somedays, I can’t believe the silly mistakes Wren or I make around here. It’s quite an adventure building custom shoji doors. One thing that constantly amazes us is the patience and support of the people we work with — our showroom reps, architects, interior designers, developers, contractors and homeowners. It usually takes several discussions to end up with the perfect solution for a project.

We know we could not do what we do without all the dedicated people we work with, especially the talented installers who make our shoji doors look good on site.


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