Friday, March 2, 2012

Prototype one: [1000 YEAR TSUMIKI... and counting] from Yakushima

I can never keep a secret.

I thought I would perhaps wait until we get home to share our special project (you can read little bit of the background story here and here!)... but then where is the fun in that?? So I figured I would share bits and pieces of our work-in-progress and prototypes here on our blog. Since it is still in making, I would greatly appreciate any feedback you might have!

So the name of the toy is [1000 YEAR TSUMIKI... and counting]. "Tsumiki" means wooden building blocks in Japanese and the toy consists of 9 cubes and a perfectly fitted container all made of Yakusugi (1000+ years old cedar that is special to the Yakushima island).

I got the idea when I was watching our Roo play with rocks after arriving to the island and how fascinated she has been about stacking these rocks... and thought "shouldn't there be a toy that is beautiful, tactile and educational for a little one... that could also sustain its beauty as an artifact of inspiration... and outlive any of the plastic toys both physically and emotionally??".

Then I remembered vividly how amazing the products made of Yakusugi smelled when I visited my grandfather on the island as a little kid. It was such a distinctly earthy and forest-like smell... even when I went home after my vacation, I would still think of the island whenever I smelled the Yakusugi product. It made me think of how important it is for little ones to explore their world using all senses.

Eventually after discussing ideas and asking FB to sketch few visuals, it all came together as a set of the most minimalistic and zen-like building blocks that are made of Yakusugi cedar. Most importantly it will wear and age... and be even more beautiful after being used. To me..., this would be a toy I want to build for our Roo and it's right for the baum-kuchen brand.

Our first prototype does not have all the details on the blocks that will be indicated on the next round of samples... but its impeccable craftsmanship, the way wood grains line up to make a natural puzzle, the unforgettable Yakusugi smell, pureness of uncoated surface that picks up oil from its own grain and fingerprints to create new shades of coat, ... and the proportion of blocks and container is so right on.

To be honest, when we picked up the prototype, it was so perfectly made that I didn't want ANYONE to touch it. But I knew in my heart that this was meant to be played and I needed to see how it would start to look and feel when it gets handled by little fingers. So here is our first dynamic prototype in play! Roo LOVED it and it totally made my moment when she picked up the blocks and the first thing she did was to smell them. It already earned a few dents and its own unique marks...

I will take more formal product photos when we have better weather with a good lighting... but hopefully the video and a few photos will give you some idea/thoughts:)

p.s. This morning we decided to extend our stay on the island for one week. The new schedule should allow us to work closely with the local wood artisan to get this project going! Hooray!!


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