If you went to this past weekend’s Maker Faire at Tokyo Big Sight, chances are that all the new ideas — both innovative and kooky — have sparked your own creativity. The timing is good, since there are three upcoming design competitions that are not only free to enter, but will also turn winning ideas into marketable products.

Sabae city’s smooth move

The Sabae Urushi Award, a brand new global competition, is looking for designs that will help modernize and popularize traditional Japanese lacquerware. This isn’t about simply designing an attractive cup or bowl — entrants are encouraged to think “outside the vessel” as well as consider using glass, metal, resin and even 3-D printing technology.

Hopefuls have until Aug. 23 to enter and all finalists will be featured in a “Kawada Lifestyle Festival” exhibition in Sabae on Sept. 19 and 20. Winners will be announced on the 20th, with the grand prize being ¥100,000 and an invite to work alongside the craftspeople creating the masterpiece.

Organized by the city of Sabae in Fukui Prefecture, whose Kawada district is known for lacquerware, this competition aims to promote the craft overseas — so winners can also expect the production process of their work to be filmed and uploaded online for posterity.


Rethink, recycle, new design

Newsed Upcycle Design Award 2014 Grand Prize-winner Ken Watanabe
Newsed Upcycle Design Award 2014 Grand Prize-winner Ken Watanabe’s melamine buttons made from furniture veneer offcuts.

For something a bit quirkier, Newsed — an upcycling brand of six design partners led by design unit Minna — is calling for entries for its annual award. Newsed’s brightly colored recycled acrylic badges and car-seat-belt bow ties have already proved popular at museum shops and select stores, and this competition is one way the brand expands its unusual collection.

As one of those outfits whose goal, aside from reducing the world’s waste, appears to be making you smile, Newsed is looking for novelty as well as functionality. You’ll realize this when you see the weird materials you’re asked to work with: old car seat belts and airbags; scraps of leather; sample denim swatches, offcuts from vinyl toys, chopsticks and glasses frames; even crumpled sheets of paper used to filter lacquer.

Aside from drawing from this unconventional list, just about anything goes design-wise — there are no restrictions on genre and each applicant can submit two ideas. Last year’s grand prize winner was simple but smart — Ken Watanable’s buttons made from furniture veneer offcuts.

The top award is ¥100,000, but the real prize is seeing your product actualized and then sold at a pop-up store early next year. Submissions will be accepted until Sept. 1, with the winner announcements and store scheduled for January next year.

newsed.jp/award (Japanese only)

Looking for fab ideas

Aki Inomata, grand prize winner of the YouFab Global Creative Awards 2015 created a
Aki Inomata, grand prize winner of the YouFab Global Creative Awards 2015 created a ‘shelter’ for hermit crabs.

Last but by no means least, the YouFab Global Creative Awards 2015 looks to the multifarious future of digital fabrication. Organized by event space FabCafe, the competition categories range from art and products to machinery.

As long as a 3-D printer, CNC milling machine or laser cutter is involved, you could submit an artwork, a new printing tool, a hacked existing object, a live performance — pretty much anything. There’s even a “beyond” section for uncategorizable submissions. Last year’s grand prize winner exemplifies how far out you can get: Aki Inomata created a “shelter” for hermit crabs — an acrylic miniaturized city that sits on the back of the crab’s shell.

YouFab Global Creative Awards is collecting submissions until Sept. 30, winners will be announced in early December and the exhibition will be in January. The grand prize is $1,000 and an aptly funky trophy designed by Kohei Nawa.


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