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When we were last in Japan, I was very excited to meet with Ms. Rina Ono. I had already been exposed to Rina’s work and was particularly in love with her ‘Cara series’ so I was naturally looking forward to hearing about her process in how she came to design this series.

Here is my interview with Rina Ono:

Q: Please give us a brief background on yourself. Where did you study, and how did you first get involved in product designs?

I learned product design and interior design at University.  After graduating, I worked as an architect for two years, then went to graduate school. After graduate school, I worked as an assistant at the University and learned about the difficulty of making products from the manufacturing company in Yamagata prefecture. I then had the thought that I would like to find a way to help and work with them, that’s when the opportunity for my current work came.

Q: What is your thought process when designing products?

Most of the products I make are used in daily life, so I put myself in that “ daily life” and the ideas start to come up. I clean the house, do the laundry, cook meals as many people do. Each action in daily life will give me the awareness and that is an important role in product making. When designing, I spend lots of time meeting manufacturers. I think it is important to recognize the history and culture behind each of them in the different regions.

Q: I see you work very closely with Oji Masanori, who I wrote about previously. Do you both share ideas when designing new products?

Mr. Oji was a good friend before I became a designer. We worked together on only one project, for Takahashi Kougei, but we always talk about most of the projects we are working on individually, and give important ideas and advice to each other.

Q: I see you design furniture as well. Is this something you will start to do more of rather then the smaller homeware objects? Or will you continue both lines?

I am not putting any emphasis on either. As long as there are manufactures who would like to work with me, as a designer, my job is to create designs that work well with them. I don’t think there is much difference in the thinking process of product and furniture making. I design what is useful in daily life.

Q: I love your ‘Cara series’ of homeware products. What was your idea behind this series. Where did the name ‘Cara’ come from?

Cara comes from the word ‘kara’ in Japanese which means the shell of an egg. When I worked with Mr. Takahashi, he wanted a design which ‘feels the warmth of the wood’ and which uses the trees of Hokkaido. Mr .Takahashi designed and produced the ‘Kami Series’ (meaning ‘paper’ in Japanese) with Mr. Oji, which are distinctive products with sharpness and thinness. So I thought of a keyword ‘thin and durable’ from Mr. Takahashi’s thin-wood carving technique, and came up with the idea of the egg’s shell. It is so thin but has very strong structure to protect the inside. The roundness and powerfulness became a hint. The material of the Cara series is the Japanese Linden, beautiful white tree in Hokkaido, which made the series strong and friendly. Hokkaido is rich in nature and the food is delicious. I designed the item with Mr.Takahashi and Mr.Oji, thinking of people eating good food.

Have a look at Rina's work on