Made in Japan, Designed In SG: 5 Must-Sees At SingaPlural
Here’s a closer look at Kyo Project, a furniture and lifestyle product collaboration, ahead of its debut at the design festival.
A vegetable-themed playground, kimono-inspired duvet covers and more inventive products will soon be exhibited at SingaPlural in March—these are just some of the designed-in-Singapore objects that you can expect to see at the upcoming design fair.
One of the fair’s key highlights is the Kyo Project, a creative initiative by the Kanto Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry, which hopes to encourage more modern usages of Japanese craftsmanship. To do so, it has teamed up three Singapore design and architecture firms (WOHA, Ministry of Design (MOD) and Asylum) with artisans from Japan’s Kanto region, to collaborate on new furniture and lifestyle products made with traditional skills.
This meant changing the way such time-honoured techniques were used, while celebrating the intricacies of Japanese craftsmanship. “We wanted to design very contemporary objects that also highlight the beauty of each craft,” says Wong Mun Summ, founding co-director of architecture practice WOHA. “It’s important to us that the objects we create are not something that’s ‘trendy’ and obsolete in the next season.”
Although these items are not available for purchase at the fair, you might just see them sold in stores in the near future. These objects are part of an ongoing collaboration that will see the products being refined and produced for retail stores. In the meantime, take a closer look at some of the pieces you can expect to see at the fair—we speak to the Singapore designers to uncover the inspiration and craftsmanship that goes into the making of these objects. Here are five Kyo Project products to watch out for.
Getting the little ones to eat their greens is a common grouse of parents everywhere. Chris Lee, founder and creative director of Asylum, decided to make a fun solution to this pesky parenting dilemma. Lee, who is a parent himself, explains that the idea was to “teach kids to love vegetables by playing with them”. “We’ve designed five to six vegetable-shaped items that will go into a toddler’s playground,” says Lee, on his collaboration with the artisans of Ishimoku. “As they’re made of Paulownia wood, these are so light and soft that the kids can move and play safely with these objects.” He used Paulownia wood (a lightweight wood originally used for making kimono storage chests) to create toys that take the shape of vegetables like corn, onion and lotus root.
This playful pair of picnic mats will make any picnic goer do a double take. Teaming up with Japanese fabric maker Asakura Senpu, Chris Lee of Asylum designed two picnic mats in water-repelling fabrics with a print of puddle reflections. According to Lee, who had visited the artisans in Japan last year, the material used is so non-absorbent that “water just bounces off the fabric”. “We are helping these artisans to find modern usages for their fabrics,” explains Lee. “We want to create new products based on their skills and knowledge, that will also be relevant to consumers today.”
Admire the beauty of kimono fabric on your bedding—this duvet cover was inspired by the traditional Japanese robe. Founding directors Wong Mun Summ and Richard Wollaston Hassell of WOHA designed the bedding product, with the help of the traditional fabric-dyeing techniques by artisans of Tomita Handycraft. “Our silk duvet cover which was inspired by the beauty and simplicity of kimonos,” explains Wong Mun Summ, architect and co-founder of WOHA. “The craft of katagami—the paper stencils used to dye intricate patterns onto silk—allowed us to create an object that had the luxurious and sensuous quality of a kimono but unlike a kimono, it could be used on a daily basis.”
The design-savvy gentleman could soon add this chic glassware to his collection. The intricate geometric design on the whisky glass has been cut by using Edo Kiriko, Japanese cut glass tradition that originates from the Edo period in the early 19th century. Designed by MOD founder Colin Seah, the detail on the glassware was inspired by the Yamanashi Prefecture in Japan’s Southern Alps. “It’s whisky territory and home to numerous world renowned distilleries,” quips the design director, on his collaboration with the artisans of glassware brand Horiguchi Kiriko. He explains: “The traditional glass cutter’s language is the single stroke or incision into the glass, to create symmetrical, 2D geometrical patterns. We decided to deconstruct this outcome by opting for a dynamic approach, with our 3D design that’s inspired by the topography of the mountainous terrain.”
For this collaboration with Seiun Souemon Hara Atelier, Chris Lee of Asylum wanted to provide a new purpose for the bronze maker’s traditional technique of lost-wax metal casting. The Japanese artisans had originally used this method to create religious urns in the past, before shifting to create household vases in the present day. “It’s been challenging for us, as these bronze vases are small and beautiful but are too expensive to be commercially viable,” explains the designer. “As such, we wanted to elevate the bronze maker’s work into art, by making bronze art sculptures that are modular. You can buy it singularly for your home or purchase multiple, stackable pieces that can become an art installation for the lobby.”