I love the simplicity of Japanese design. Such beautifully designed objects, but also so practical at the same time. One designer who combines these 2 aspects perfectly, is Oji Masanori. A good friend of mine was kind enough to introduce me to him on my last visit to Japan. I was already familiar with his designs before we met, having been a fan of his work for some time. So it was a real pleasure meeting with him and discussing his work. Oji collaborates with a variety of craftsmen and makers across Japan. The craftsmen in themselves have a good history, but Oji is there to enhance their work with his designs.
So for example he collaborates with FUTAGAMI, who originally made Buddhist altar fittings. Oji creates products with Futagami with a unique brass texture. He also collaborates with TAKAHASHI KOUGEI who originally produced table legs and ornamental pillars. With the downturn in the domestic furniture market, they started the production of wood cups and sugar pots using a lathe. While preserving the look and feel of wood, these items--such as the Kami series drinking cups--have a modern sensibility, enabling them to blend naturally into the contemporary lifestyle.
All of Oji’s work is beautiful but also practical and fits into every day life. He said that an object must be beautiful to see, even when you are not using it. He pays so much attention to detail that he also packages all of his products himself.
Here is my Q&A with Oji Masanori:
Q: What is your background, and have you always been interested in design?
A: I was born in Hiroshima in 1974 and graduated from Hiroshima Institute of Technology (Department of Environmental Design) in 1997. After working as an Architect and graphic designer, I started "Oji & Design” in 2004. I design a variety of Japanese handcrafts and get involved in branding groups of products. I don’t remember when I started wanting to DESIGN but even as a child, I always had ideas of changing things into different shapes...
1974年広島県生まれ。1997年広島工業大学環境学部環境デザイン学科卒業。建築設計事務所、グラフィック事務所を経て、2004年からプロダクトデザインに主軸を移し「Oji & Design」を設立いたしました。日本の様々な手工業品のデザインをし、それら製品群のブランディングや付随するグラフィック等も統合的に手がけています。手工業品の生い立ちを踏まえ、行く末を見据えながらデザインをしています。「デザイン」についていつ頃から意識していたか覚えていませんが、幼い頃から「もっとこの形はこうしたほうがいいのに・・」とは思っていました。
Q: When designing products, what is the most important thing?
A: I always think: Is it practical, is it easy to use, and does it blend into the landscape of where it is used?
I am interested in balance between the space and the product.
Q: What is your thought process when designing?
A: In my daily life, I often think 1. “this should be better this way” or “I would like something like this” 2. My first impression is very important when I see the skills and the material at different factories. ‘If this could become like this, it would be beautiful!’ Once I get this thought, I like to start to produce.. There are times when 1 and 2 come together and there are times when they don’t.
Q: Your designs are both practical and beautiful. How do you explain this in your own words?
A: My design has to be practical but also has to be pleasing to the eye even if it is not used.
I don’t specially try to make beautiful things but if you think of making something practical and use the right material and the skill, the products will be beautiful.
I am concerned about ease of use and proper balance between the product and the space.
The two things are completely connected seamlessly. However, I believe that the item will be truly beautiful and aesthetic if the material and skill are honestly matched.
In the pictures I concentrate on his collaborations with Futagami, but stay tuned to see more of his collaborations with other craftsmen.