Striking designs can come from unusual inspirations. This month looks at designer collaborations with Japanese veteran manufacturers, including a laboratory glassware maker, and an injection mold specialist.

Ringing in new designs

Often handcrafted in glass or metal to ensure a pleasant ringing tone, decorative bells are not something you would normally associate with a manufacturer of science laboratory equipment. Yet that’s the birthplace of the Sekiei Furin wind chime and the Sekiei Bell handbell — both designed by Tsukasa Fujita of H Concept Co. Ltd. in collaboration with Kamata Rikagakukikai Seisakusho Co., Ltd.

The Sekiei brand is one of several that H Concept has been collaborating on for Ayase Labo, an initiative founded by a group of manufacturing businesses in Ayase, a city in Kanagawa Prefecture known for its small-scale factories. Kamata Rikagakukikai Seisakusho specializes in fused quartz glass laboratory equipment, notably semiconductor tubes, which, it turns out, are the base forms behind the two elegant Sekiei designs.

The purity of fused quartz glass gives it a melting point of over 2,000 degrees Celsius, making it expensive and difficult to manipulate, so Fujita has cleverly repurposed the company’s semiconductor tubes for his designs. The results are as stunning as they are unusual. The Sekiei Furin (¥7,020) is a slice of tubing, suspended horizontally by transparent thread, with a smaller glass ring hanging vertically in its center as a clapper. For the Sekiei Bell (¥12,960), lampworking techniques are used to turn a longer section of tube into an hourglass shape. Threaded onto transparent cord and through the neck of the hourglass are clear acrylic ball clappers. Ring the bell one way up and it produces a low tone, flip it over and it creates a higher-pitched tinkle.

Both items are beautiful manifestations of the often under-appreciated artisanal skills that exist in small manufacturers like Kamata Rikagakukikai Seisakusho — not to mention a delightful way to ring in a new wave of factory-made design.

H Concept online store: koncent.jp (Japanese)

Injecting a fun look

In 2017, the injection molding company Muroshima Seiko Co., Ltd. launched a small range of its own products, including Ovov, a “contemporary puzzle game,” created by Feel Good Creation Inc., a design studio that specializes in CMF (color, material, finish) design. Feel Good Creation primarily consults and helps different industries conceptualize and produce striking new materials and finishes that can be marketed to other companies. Ovov was designed as Muroshima Seiko’s own brand but it still showcases the manufacturer’s mastery at precision molding plastic.

The inventive game involves overlapping and snapping together flexible plastic parallelogram pieces to construct colorful 3D geometric models, artworks, containers, bags or anything else your imagination and skill will permit. The pieces are scored with four triangles that allow you to fold them various ways, and they come in translucent pinks, blues, yellows, grays and clear, so that when overlapped new colors emerge.

Next month, Ovov will release Ovov Mini — tiny Ovov pieces perfect for designing unique gem-like accessories.

An Ovov kit of 56 pieces is priced at ¥4,104, with single-color packs of 30 at ¥1,620. The new Ovov Mini will be ¥432 for 12 pieces and ¥2,700 for 100 pieces. Keep an eye on the Ovov website for more information.



From the lab to the makers


After the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011, designer Keiji Ashizawa founded Ishinomaki Laboratory in Miyagi Prefecture as a public DIY workshop space to empower locals with the skills to help rebuild one of the worst-hit coastal areas. Since then, it has led the way in DIY furniture design, bringing into its fold an impressive roster of collaborating creatives, such as Torafu Architects, Drill Design and Mute.

Its latest collaboration, however, is a little different. Ishinomaki Laboratory by Karimoku is a series of ready-made works, expertly crafted in the offcuts and rejected timber of Japan’s largest wooden furniture maker.

Using the expertise and skills of Karimoku artisans, the brand repurposes the woods into refined versions of Ishinomaki Laboratory classics, including its AA Stool and Ishinomaki Bench. So-called flaws, the inevitable casualties of nature — scratches, tiny insect holes, even woodpecker dents — become part of the charm of these pieces. Color is also introduced, with some items available in gray, black and lemon yellow.

The prices are a little higher than Ishinomaki Laboratory’s DIY works, ranging from ¥32,000 for the Ishinomaki Stool by Karimoku to ¥140,000 for the Kobo Table by Karimoku, but these are undoubtably beautifully made. You can see for yourself at the brand’s popup installation at dotcom space Tokyo, Aug. 2-8. See the brand’s Facebook page or Instagram for details.


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