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Updating tradition at Tokyo Design Week

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Promoting Japan’s artisanal history and new design

Established in 2005, Tokyo Design Week has done an admirable job of showcasing Japanese creators both major and minor. Unfortunately, this year has been a bit of a let-down from past years’ presentations. Much smaller in scale and yet still heavily populated by corporate stalls, there were a lot of exhibitors displaying the same ideas as last year. But there were a few things that caught my eye.

Tokyo Teshigoto, a project by the Tokyo Metropolitan Small and Medium Enterprise Support Center, proves that bureaucrats have style despite the ill-conceived “Cool Japan.” The initiative promotes 40 traditionally crafted products — including kiriko glassware, shippo cloissone, woodblock prints and hand-bound brushes. Using contemporary design that enhances, rather than interferes with, traditional aesthetics, these are products that should also appeal to a foreign audience.

The Copper Long-necked Watering Can by Yoichi Negishi, Japan’s only surviving creator of bonsai watering cans, is a great example of modern design combined with traditional craftsmanship. The can’s extra-long neck keeps the water flow gentle and makes it easy to pour, while the tiny pinholes on the head produce a light raindrop-like shower. The can has also been designed so that it can be dunked into a bucket of water for easy refill.

Also of note is Satoshi Nabetani’s Kamata Modern Suikyo series of glassware. By developing a curvaceous design, Nabetani has created a pattern that, simple as it may appear, requires phenomenally adept glass-cutting skills. Each piece is incredibly unusual in glass-cutting design, yet still distinctively kiriko.

Tokyo Metropolitan Small and Medium Enterprise Support Center: www.tokyo-kosha.or.jp

Cut from the same cloth

Another venture that aims to promote Japanese crafts is the NPO J+B Design, which brings together various brands to showcase at its Brooklyn showroom. Aimed specifically at a foreign market, the J+B Design goods include Amaike Textile’s Super Organza, made from 27-micron polyester thread and touted as the thinnest fabric in the world, and Nuno Anuenue’s extra-durable polyester jacquard, which can be woven with any pattern or image a customer desires.

The Super Organza has been featured at quite a few recent design shows, but it’s now being presented as a finished product in the form of gradation-dyed and tightly pleated scarves, while Nuno Anuenue’s jacquard can be heat cut and even “stitched” using heat, meaning no fraying or seams.

J+B Design: bit.ly/npoJBDesign

When can we geta these?

It’s a shame that there is so little information about the brand Going Home, one of the TDW 100 Creators exhibitors, because Yoshimitsu Fujita’s curved geta are real stand-outs that deserve a wider audience.

Each geta is made from strips of Japanese zelkova, or oak, that have been bent and bonded together into a sandal

with a wavy sole. It looks a bit like a wappa wooden lunch box version of geta, and the shape is not only a modern take on the traditional footwear, but it also gives the sandal a little more bounce.

Fujita says Going Home geta are not available for purchase yet, so here’s hoping that the attention he garnered at TDW kickstarts a production run soon.

bit.ly/goinghomefb