Style & Design | ON: DESIGN

Fresh ideas for old-school crafts

by Mio Yamada

Rock, paper and aroma

Osaka-based Yoshihiro Mikami has an impressively diverse range of projects under this belt, most notably branding and product design for Nuarl wireless-earbuds and the sleek homewares of Ovject. He has worked with various mediums, including enamel, ceramic and copper, but his Washi Aromatic Object (Stone) has a more natural foundation and is part of his recent efforts to focus on regional revitalization projects.

A collaboration with Re-creations Recreate Japan, which introduced him to Ue Washi Atelier in nearby Nara Prefecture, this essential oil diffuser is made from stone and paper, but its aesthetic simplicity belies a very conscientious process. Mikami only uses natural rocks, broken into random forms, which are hand-chiseled to achieve textured facets on which a thin layer of colored washi (Japanese paper) is seamlessly attached. The fibrous paper, specially handcrafted by Ue Washi Atelier, is flexible enough to be sculptured over the stone’s uneven surface like a coat of paint and its high absorbency allows it to retain the fragrance of just a few drops of essential oil.

Every Washi Aromatic Object (Stone) is an objet d’art, unique in shape and size and is priced accordingly, from ¥3,300 to ¥16,500. Just out of Mikami’s prototyping stage, they are currently only available at Raw Light Space in Nakatsu, Osaka Prefecture. But it’s such a delightful idea, here’s hoping they will be more widely available soon.

yoshihiromikami.com (Japanese only)

Building an altar to carpentry

Wooden building blocks have become a bit of an On: Design favorite, but it’s hard to pass up sets that are so stylishly designed they inspire both children and adults. Yamazumi, from Censa Inc.’s Sukima brand of children’s goods, is as elegant as it is unusual. It also supports a declining craft — that of butsudan (home Buddhist altars) makers.

Each Yamazumi block is an angular frame that can slot atop another like a puzzle, making it possible to build shelf-like constructions of geometric patterns. It’s the brainchild of Tamaki and Takeshi Yanagiya of Hiroshima-based Censa Inc. who, after being approached for advice by the local butsudan maker Eikou-woodcraft, wanted to design something that utilized the craft’s specific carpentry skills.

It’s a far cry from Hiroshima’s regional butsudan style — the kin butsudan, an elaborately lacquered altar with gold-leaf interiors — but the base materials and techniques, executed by the artisan Narimichi Uehata, are the same. Using laminated fir wood, each piece’s shape is different and inspired by mountains, a play on “yama” (“mountain”) from the word “yamazumi,” which means “to stack.” Some elaborate towers can be made with a full set of 14 blocks (¥23,100) but with such unusual shapes, the seven-piece (¥16,280) or even four-piece set (¥7,260) offer plenty of stacking combinations.

sukima.gift (Japanese only)

Bring back print

Yosuke Inui is no stranger to modernizing traditional crafts with contemporary aesthetics. He has designed products with magewappa (steam-bending wood) artisans, paper producers, even knife makers. The Mimicry Boards, however, update something that is modern, but in this digital age is at risk of losing relevance — the white board.

Designed for Nishiguchi Kougu Seisakusho, which has been making school equipment and signage since 1915, Inui’s set of Mimicry Boards “mimic” a few other things that could die out in the foreseeable future, including print newspapers, manga comic books and manuscript paper (each ¥16,500) and tanka poetry scrolls (¥8,800). It’s this retro-charm that makes them desirable. Oh the irony.

Slightly larger than A3 (aside from the tanka scroll) and framed in wood they make great notice boards, while their pre-printed layouts can inspire kids to draw comic strips, write stories or improve their handwriting. Since they wipe clean, they could even save paper in the home, if your digital devices aren’t doing that already.

bit.ly/mimicry-jp (Japanese only)

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