Sunday, March 11, 2012

1000 YEAR TSUMIKI / Prototype 2

We are super excited to share an update on [1000 YEAR TSUMIKI... and counting] project!

This time we asked Hiroshi-san of Shima-Ya-Mingei to add small details on the edges of the block. We thought it would be interesting to have a design element that encourages little ones to count and feel the tactile and visual difference on the wood. The detail we asked him to use in order to indicate the design is called "Chigiri" which is usually used to strengthen the 90 degree corner where two surfaces are coming together.

The idea looked really good on the paper but when we saw them in person, we quickly realized that they start to compete with the beautiful natural wood grain... so it was an easy decision to scratch the idea.

After all... design is... all about 3 steps forward and 2 steps backward, right?

But we loved the darker Yakusugi cedar Hiroshi-san used which started to add more sophistication to these blocks and we found out that these are much more premium pieces where grains were denser and had more natural oil (which keeps the wood from decaying for 1000+ years). We counted the grains and came to the conclusion that each blocks represents more than 100 years of growth. We also talked micro details like a consistent corner radius size that picks up the perfect highlights when one block sits next to another. It's a small thing but our goal is to produce a designed product... and we believe what separates design from craft is the precision in every intentional details.

Hiroshi-san and his lovely wife were kind enough to show us the shop and behind the scene.
It is no longer allowed to cut a new Yakusugi tree for harvest because you know... it's more than 1000 years old... All the current Yakusugi crafts are made of the Yakusugi that were left behind deep in the forest from 200 to 300 years ago when they were cut as materials for a roof. Yakusugi's natural oil made it possible for these fallen woods from decaying in the forests. It is a precious material since resource is finite.
Yakusugi is sliced as a panel then left in the drying shed for two to three years before it is ready to be used as materials for products. When we had difficult time locating an artisan who could execute our ideas, our friends on the island mentioned that we might need to give an artisan one year or so to make the blocks... It all made sense when we saw this process. 

Many of Hiroshi-san's wood tools are 30-40 years old... but still in a great shape. He even makes his own curving tools to get the effect he is looking for.

After our biz chat, it was a fun time:) By now, Roo has a few sets of very sweet adopted grandparents on the island... She loves it! And Hiroshi-san gave a beautiful piece of raw Yakusugi material to FB... saying that he would love to see what FB would do with this wood as a creative designer. What an honor...

We are looking forward to going back to his shop in a few days to see the new samples from him... then hopefully a start of a small production. I am crossing my fingers!


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