This month, “On: Design” features new products inspired by traditional bamboo and wood crafts coming from Kyoto, Sabae in Fukui Prefecture and Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture.
Inside and out
It’s good that design firm Nendo is so prolific, but it’s also made it hard for shoppers to keep up. In March, however, the studio launched its own online store, Nendo House, making it easy for fans to directly purchase a wide selection of past and new products, including a few online-exclusive ones.
Hyouri — its latest collaboration with washi paper lantern maker Kojima Shouten — will only be available in Japan via Nendo House next year, and from select galleries overseas. The prototype designs, though, debuted at Vogue Italia’s April digital event, “Life in Vogue.”
Based in Kyoto, Kojima Shouten has been making chōchin paper lanterns for more than 200 years, often using its traditional techniques to create stunning modern iterations. Nendo takes this further by focusing on the flexibility of chōchin design to inform a new kind of lampshade that can be folded inside out into unusual double- or triple-layered shapes.
By design, traditional chōchin can be folded down flat, its framework of spiral or circular bamboo strips held together by sturdy, but supple, washi. For Hyouri, Nendo adds joints to the strips to create polygons that give the lineup of lampshades unique shapes, while making them easier to manipulate. To highlight the layering and allow more light to pass through, the traditional washi has also been replaced with gossamer silk.
Ten different designs have been prototyped, with the finished products scheduled for unveiling at an exhibition in Kyoto in January. In the meantime, viewers can watch a digital rendering of lampshades morphing into different forms on Nendo’s official YouTube channel.
Trunk Design is primarily a champion of local craft industries in Hyogo Prefecture, working with ceramic, textiles, incense and more. One of its most recent projects, however, ventures a little further — to Sabae in Fukui Prefecture, an area renowned for echizen lacquerware.
Under Trunk Design’s creative direction, Lr by Inoue Tokumokkou, a new brand of home goods brings the beauty of artisan Takayuki Inoue’s woodworking techniques to the fore. Layers of lacquer usually hide construction details, but here, each plate, bowl, tray and box is lightly lacquered or coated in urethane, leaving the wood grain and joinery visible.
Inoue is a second-generation woodworker, specializing in traditional kakumono (Japanese joinery) and magewappa (steam bending) techniques. His Lr by Inoue Tokumokkou collection features Jubako Kaku food boxes with unusual inset outer corners, stackable Temotobako desk organizer boxes with beveled sides, seamless circular Jubako Maru wappa boxes, corner-clipped rectangular trays and smooth round plates. Together, Trunk Design’s collection showcases all of Inoue’s skills. Even the “Lr” logo of the brand is an interpretation of the corner joinery that can be seen in the Jubako Kaku boxes.
Slated for release in June, all items in the collection will be available coated with either fuki-urushi, a lacquer that is wiped off after application for a dark stained effect, or transparent urethane. Keep an eye on the Lr by Inoue Tokumokkou site for details of its online shop launch.
Tables to koala bears
This year, furniture brand Ishinomaki Laboratory commemorates 10 years since its birth as an initiative to aid the revitalization of local communities devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Initially offering free woodworking workshops for locals and engaging in programs to help restore damaged properties, Ishinomaki Laboratory has since evolved, collaborating with international designers and marketing the project’s growing range of DIY-inspired products.
For 2021, the brand has released a number of new works, from chairs and a sofa and low table to smaller items such as a planter and umbrella stand. Japanese designers include the founder of Ishinomaki Laboratory, Keiji Ashizawa, Torafu Architects, Naoki Terada and Drill Design, with international contributions from Jonah Takagi, Daniel Schofield, Studio Sebastian Marbacher, Norm Architects and Studio Adjective.
The lineup of new works includes striking pieces of furniture, such as the compact wall-leaning Rin Desk by Daniel Schofield, but an “On: Design” favorite has to be the smallest and cutest item — the Ishinomaki Koala Kit, designed by Torafu Architects. Staying true to the brand’s DIY beginnings, it comes as a box of pre-cut pieces of wood you can assemble into a koala bear ornament that doubles as a pen holder or a smartphone stand. Each kit includes glue and, for those who prefer smoother edges, a sheet of sandpaper.
A portion of proceeds from the Koala Kit is donated toward an Australian wildlife conservation charity, an added incentive for animal lovers that will extend to the upcoming release of a Penguin Kit. To find out more, including retail outlets, visit the Ishinomaki Laboratory website.
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