As we look ahead with enthusiasm to a future filled with wearable technology, haptic interfaces, augmented reality and smart everything, let’s be mindful to also look back and continue to learn from innovations and wisdom of the past.
Natural dye techniques, wood preserving methods, needle crafts, slow surface design techniques, the working & tooling of natural materials, and living in harmony with nature in order to achieve wellbeing are just a few lessons from ancient Japan, along with restraint and simplicity, which we should value and explore.
Here I’ve brought together my pick of contemporary products that pay homage to Japan’s ancient craft skills. From Sashiko and Shou Sugi Ban to the use of Indigo, these unique products have been made with passion, care and respect.
- The DALMA chair by design trio CARAPACE uses Shou Sugi Ban, an ancient Japanese technique that preserves the wood, making it robust and durable. The wood undergoes a charring process and is then washed and brushed with water to remove excess soot, before a natural oil is applied to seal it. This technique is traditionally used for the cladding of buildings.
- I love the magical glow of Ryosuke Fukusada’s limited edition Wooden Light Bulb available from LEDON. The are made using the traditional Japanese Rokuro technique – the bulbs are handmade by turning pine on a lathe and carving away until the bulb is between 2-3mm thick. An LED light is then placed inside the shell. The resulting bulb looks solid when off, but when switched on, a warm glow shines through the woods grain. Watch this VIDEO to see exactly how they are made in Kyoto.
- The Sashiko Leather Tray is handmade by the wonderfully talented Etsy seller Joey of SubconsciousCrafts, based in Rennes, France. Sashiko (meaning “little stabs”) is a form of decorative running stitch technique from Japan. Traditionally used to reinforce points of wear, or to repair worn places or tears with patches. Usually white cotton thread stitched on traditional indigo blue cloth gives sashiko its distinctive appearance, but here Joey uses hand-stitched white thread on vegetable hand-dyed tanned leather to create this unusual tray, assembled via corner snap buttons.
- The Blue & White Beaker by South African-based ceramicist John Newdigate uses a very similar method to Shibori (the Japanese resist-dye technique described in point 7) but here John uses wax and cobalt oxide on porcelain instead of indigo and cotton/linen.
- The Mökki lamp-pot by architect-designer Caterina Moretti of Peca mimics the shape of a house surrounded by a mini-landscape that the end consumer designs. It pays homage to Zen Gardens and the art of Bonsai. Hand carved from White Onyx & Carrara Marble and with an LED light, it is a pot that gives life, light and a sense of wellbeing.
- The Ki-oke Stool by OeO Design Studio fuses the fine tradition of Kyoto woodcrafting with Western sensibilities. The result is an object of beauty which also pays homage to traditional bucket making in Japan. Handcrafted in Japan by Shuji Nakagawa, they are available in Japanese cypress (sawara) and in a limited edition of Japanese cedar (jindai-sugi) with a natural, 2000-year-old patina.
- The Shibori Tie-Dye Pillow from Posh Living is hand dyed and custom made especially for you when you place an order. Shibori (meaning “to squeeze or wring”) is an ancient Japanese tie-dying resist technique (the earliest known example dates from the 8th century) using methods to bind, stitch, fold, twist, gather or compress cloth so the dye (usually indigo) can’t reach certain areas and therefore patterns are created.
- Think about ways to honor and promote the heritage and traditions of your company, manufacturing methods or products.
- Think about ways to tell the story of the products you sell in engaging ways … not just the technical spec.
- Think about ways to create calming, edited-down retail experiences (this applies to website design and brochures too!).
Thanks for reading …. Stay safe!
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