Photo by Max Cooper
As Cynthia Pierce rolls out a piecrust in her kitchen, she often looks up to see her husband, potter Akira Satake, engaged in a similar motion. “There's a lot of echoes between what he does and what I do,” she says. “A lot of times, I'll be rolling out pie dough, and he'll be making slabs because a lot of his work starts as a slab.”
Their creations come together in convenient ways; Satake constructs dishes (in addition to much larger vessels) that display Pierce’s desserts. In Satake's new space, Gallery Mugen in the River Arts District, the couple will showcase their synergistic occupations for the benefit of hungry art buyers and browsers.
“We want [the gallery] to appeal to as many senses as possible,” Pierce says. “We also want it to be a stimulating environment where people will really be curious and want to know about Akira's pottery style and techniques, and want to know about my ingredients.”
Pierce has sold her baked goods at the Asheville City Market under the Sweet Life Bakeshop moniker. Now, she'll turn her focus to sweet and savory pastries as Yuzu Patisserie. The Cotton Mill Studios gallery will display Satake's work, while featuring Pierce's baked goods.
Like the concept behind it, the gallery space feels fresh. Two walls of windows throw light across the room. While most of the floor space is devoted to pottery displays, a substantial corner of the shop boasts a wide pastry case and a minimalist kitchen. (Pierce will bake most of the goods in the certified kitchen at her house.) “For people who are sort of walking around the gallery areas, they get hungry,” Pierce says. “At least at this point, there aren't a whole lot of places to have a restorative cup of coffee and a snack.”
Pierce provides a professional approach to European-style pastries with a penchant for Japanese ingredients. Through traditional, Western-style pastries, she explores flavors that she learned about from Satake, who hails from Japan. Ginger, green tea and satsumaimo (Japanese sweet potatoes) enhance shortbread, cookies, cakes and tarts.
The eponymous yuzu is also part of the menu. “I named my company for a Japanese citrus fruit called the yuzu that's just got the most incredible fragrance,” Pierce says. “In the years that I've known Akira and that we've been together, I've been able to explore Japanese ingredients a lot more and use them in my baking.”
Gallery Mugen and Yuzu Patisserie, 122 Riverside Drive, Studio C, will open on Friday, March 1. Hours will be Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fabric artist Barbara Zaretsky is also part of Gallery Mugen. Her studio adjoins Satake and Pierce’s space.
On Friday, March 15, Pierce, Zaretsky and Satake will celebrate their grand opening with sweet and savory small bites and live music. The performer? Satake himself. He's an accomplished composer and banjo player. He plays both the conventional banjo and the shamisen, a similar Japanese instrument. The party runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. For more information, visit akirasatake.com and yuzubycynthia.com.