japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — October 2010

Human Coffee Table by Higashijima Architectural Studio

Let’s play a game. It’s called, which piece of furniture is different. Alternatively, we could also play a game called, which piece of furniture is the most high-maintenance. Or, if you prefer, we could play a game called, which piece of furniture is a violation of human rights?

click to enlarge

But seriously, I found it quite humorous that, within their portfolio of work, Higashijima Architectural Studio threw that into the mix with no explanation, as if everyone has a human coffee table as part of their lineup.

October 11, 2010   Comments Off

On Za Line

My last post for this week on ceramics features On Za Line, who bring a rather avante garde yet functional twist to ceramics. Kiyomi Kodama and Ai Kurahashi have been working together since 2005, largely exploring the possibilities of porcelain. Their work culminated with the very successful (and perhaps most commercial) debut of “The Garden as Science Fiction” (2008), a line-up of products that included moss rings and leaf plates.

The Garden as Science Fiction

The pair embarked on a mission to build upon their success and released “The Garden as Science Fiction Vol 2,” which features vases modeled after plant roots. Once again, utilizing the pair’s favorite medium – porcelain – they attempted to depict our adoration and yearning for nature.

The Garden as Science Fiction Vol 2

In the same way roots often resemble human organs, the vases have an almost grotesque (in the most beautiful sense) resemblance to organs like the human heart. “Sooner or later we will all live amongst nature,” state the artists. Whether they are insinuating a return to nature after death, or perhaps predicting a world where nature has engulfed all of mankind, there is a fascinating morbidity about seeing roots on the table, serving as a vessel for flowers.

The Garden as Science Fiction

If you would like to see On Za Line’s work in person, they will be presenting at Next Standard (10/22 – 23), an exhibition that is part of the upcoming Japan Fashion Week.

October 8, 2010   2 Comments

Koishiwara Pottery

click images to enlarge

Because I mentioned ceramics yesterday, I thought I would finish off the week with 2 more posts on ceramics that have been in sitting in my backlog. Koishiwara Pottery is the brainchild of Tomoko Nagao, self-proclaimed food coordinator and head Vege Mania. The project is a collaboration between her and 15 different kilns. Their motto is in the spirit of Kitaoji Rosanjin: tableware that makes food taste better.

The images are a few of my favorites, selected from their latest lineup. Clean lines and beautiful forms are always a turn-on for me.

October 8, 2010   Comments Off

Shigaraki Life Ceramics

Designer Masahiro Minami is 1 of 7 designers participating in  the  Shigaraki Life Ceramics exhibition, one of the highlights of the Shigaraki Art Festival taking place this month. With 15 kilns also joining in on the mix, the designers were asked to create a series of new products that utilized Shigaraki’s age-old tradition of ceramics, but also breathed new life into everyday objects.

The most eye-catching piece for me is Renca, an experimental design utilizing translucent ceramics and an LED backlight to create the most awe-inspiring sink I have ever seen. Imagine going to the bathroom at night and walking in on this beauty.

images courtesy of Masahiro Minami | click to enlarge

BIWAKO is a sink that’s modeled after lake Biwa and an adjacent lake Minami, which can be utilized as a soap dish.

Zipang is a set of organic ceramic plates that can be used individually or, when aligned correctly, can resemble the islands of Japan.

(FYI – the word “Japan” is said to have evolved from zipang, an ancient pronunciation used by the Chinese – and subsequently  repeated by Marco Polo – to refer to Japan, or something like that.)

Weedy is a cute pair of parking stops that sprout grass, adding a touch of green to your concrete parking lot.

minamo is a simple yet elegant line of dishes that pays homage to the roots of Shigaraki ceramics, which is said to have been characterized by clean lines and a small base that expands outward. This is quite contrary to Shigaraki ceramics as we know them today, which are defined by an earthy, often burnt look.

A blend of the words Omedeto (congratulations – literally, bud has sprouted ) and Tamago (I hope you know what that means). It’s to be used as a gift for special occasions like weddings or births.

The intent of the piece is to force the receiver to break the ceramics, typically perceived as something negative, and turn it into something positive. Once the piece has broken in half it reveals a customized message and a figurine.


October 7, 2010   Comments Off

Senden Kaigi | Promotional Campaign Awards

click images to enlarge

I thought this proposal for a coca cola ad campaign (PDF) was incredibly cute. It comes with a coca cola pen that you use to write an “invisible message” to your sweetheart. As they finish drinking the bottle of soda the message appears. [add diabetic joke here]

Thought up by Yuya Kikuchi, a Dentsu Tec employee, the proposal is a finalist in the 1st Promotional Campaign Awards sponsored by Senden Kaigi, a publisher of advertisement-related periodicals. The proposals of the 20 finalists will be on display at Tokyo International Forum between 10/14 – 15 where you can vote for your favorite piece.

October 6, 2010   Comments Off

Good Design Awards 2010

So last week the award winners of Japan’s Good Design Awards were released and the second I got the press release I thought, must I? Call me susceptible but ever since I drank Maria Popova’s Kool-Aid I have been feeling oddly resentful towards design awards. Nonetheless, I am going to push forward but before doing so I want to make something clear for everyone referring to the Good Design Awards as “prestigious.” Unless you are in the top 15, there is nothing prestigious about the award. Last year it was given out to over 1000 designs. You had a 30% chance of getting the award, which seems pretty high to me considering its prestige.

Anyway, let’s take a look at some of the top 15 entries.

First we have Hibiya Flower Atrium, architect Kumiko Inui’s remodeling of a flower shop. It certainly is a beautiful store whose open structure helps add a lot of color to its neighborhood.

click images to enlarge | go here for more photos

I have to mention 9h, the capsule hotel designed by Fumie Shibata et al. because of all the times we have mentioned it on this site. Interestingly, Shibata herself is one of the 70 or so judging committee members.

The sustainable design award went to Takane Heights, a circa 1963 condo that was given a massive facelift by Shigeru Aoki Architects.

I think it’s tremendously important, in an era when we are generating more waste than ever before, that we realize that beautiful architecture can be achieved without tearing down the old and starting from scratch. Before and after picks courtesy of the architect’s blog.

And last but certainly not least, as I tweeted several days ago, AKB48, the pop idol unit consisting of 48 underage-looking girls, also placed in the top 15.

Rumors of their placement began swirling several weeks ago and the design community, including myself, passed it off as a joke. But now I’m not really sure what to say about this. Perhaps I need to contemplate it a bit. But maybe  there is more to this group than I first gave them credit for…


October 5, 2010   Comments Off

On The Wall | Bob Foundation

I want to end the week with the always playful work by Japanese designers Bob Foundation who, by the way, happen to have the absolute coolest name ever. The new prints are from a recent exhibition that was held in Kapok in Hong Kong last month.


October 1, 2010   1 Comment