This month’s On: Design focuses on a few everyday items that offer much more than meets the naked eye.

The craft behind the design

At first glance, there’s a uniformity to Asemi Co.’s ceramic cups that belies the conscientious thought behind their design. There are, in fact, only two shapes in the lineup: a minimalist short teacup and its taller sibling. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t variety.

For Asemi Co., a co-winner of last month’s IFFT/Interior Lifestyle Living Young Designer Award, the concept behind its tableware is as important as the items themselves. The brand’s designers, Yuki Ishiguro and Lars Amhoff, who have been friends since they were students at the Folkwang University of Arts in Essen in Germany, share a passionate appreciation for traditional crafts — and Asemi Co. is their love letter to Japan’s regional pottery.

To produce the lineup, they personally visited studios across Japan to establish relationships with ceramicists, while learning about the history and styles of local potteries. The conformity of the Asemi Co. cups is thus by design: The minimalist aesthetic helps bring into focus regional characteristics, highlighting variations in production techniques, texture and color. And the results are as beautiful as they are thoughtful.

Some cups are hand-thrown, others molded; some are earthy in color and texture, others flawlessly smooth with colored glaze. One is even patterned with hundreds of tiny hand-pressed indentations. All retain an unglazed section, so users can feel the difference in textures, and they are designed to complement each other, so that they look great when stacked together.

There are four hand-thrown styles — Bizen-yaki (from Okayama Prefecture), Matsushiro-yaki (northern Nagano Prefecture), Koshiwara-yaki (southern Fukuoka Prefecture) and Soma-yaki (Fukushima Prefecture); and two molded types — Hasami-yaki (Nagasaki Prefecture) and Tokoname-yaki (Aichi Prefecture). More are also in the prototyping stage, so keep an eye on the Asemi Co. website for updates. Prices range from ¥1,700 for a small Hasami-yaki cup to ¥4,600 for a large Bizen-yaki one.


Sticking to a good idea

Masters of imaginative problem-solving, Nendo’s design team has taken on the sticky issue of adhesives with Gloo, a new range of tapes and glue for the Japanese stationery maker Kokuyo.

To unify Kokuyo’s many colorful brands of adhesives, Nendo has turned everything its signature white, which draws attention to a series of innovative physical design revisions that improve each item’s performance. These include a cuboid glue stick that won’t roll away and is easy to apply to corners; a hand-held, self-cutting double-sided tape dispenser with a head that can be used at two angles; and a bench-top tape dispenser that is secured to surfaces by a suction cup and has a unique straight-edge blade that makes it easy to cut off strips with just one hand.

Good old-fashioned liquid glue, too, has had a makeover. Shaped like a fat self-standing pen, its cap attaches to the container’s bottom so it won’t be lost, while a slanted “smart nozzle” can be used pointy-side down to create tiny dots of glue or flat-side down to draw lines.

All these items have additional functional details, such as a ridge on the glue stick’s cap to make it easy to push off with one hand and a mechanism on the tape dispenser that automatically releases the suction cup. Even some of the bonding agents have been tweaked — the double-sided tape comes in different colors to indicate adhesive strengths and the liquid glue fades from opaque to clear as it dries.

Despite the designer aesthetic, Gloo prices are close to that of regular stationery, ranging from ¥140 for a small glue stick to ¥1,728 for the tape dispenser, and the whole range will be released in January next year.


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