The KYO Project was created to introduce Japanese makers to opportunities outside of their local audience, reinterpret traditional Japanese crafts and extend their reach to a larger international audience. As a result of developing technologies and changing lifestyle needs, many Japanese crafts that have been passed on for generations no longer serve their original purposes. Yet, the mass production of most modern-day commodities has also brought about renewed interest in Japanese furniture and lifestyle products for their quality and the technical skills required of the craftsmen who make those products.
12 craft makers from the Kanto region in Tokyo and four award-winning Singapore designers – Chris Lee (Asylum), Ministry of Design, WOHA and Takenouchi Webb – were invited to the KYO (共, which means ‘today’ and ‘co-‘ in Kanji) Project to collaborate in conceptualising and co-creating a series of furniture and lifestyle products that expand on the possibilities and applications of traditional Japanese crafts.
The makers selected for the project work with a range of traditional crafts and mediums – bronze casting, glass cutting, textile dyeing, woodworking – that have had a deep history and impact on Japanese culture. Some of these crafts have been designated Intangible Cultural Assets by the Japanese government, an appointment conferred exclusively to human skills of high historical or artistic value indispensable to the production of cultural properties of Japan. In contrast, Singapore is a young country that has just celebrated 50 years of independence in 2015, with a creative industry that is slowly building its own voice amongst its peers in the region. Recognized as a UNESCO Creative City of Design in 2016, Singapore’s creative efforts are setting the foundations for an innovative culture in the years to come with their new ideas and work.
The possibility of marrying the ingenuity of both nations at each stage of cultural development was compelling; Japanese makers were eager to embrace new ideas, while Singaporean designers relished the rare opportunity to work with traditional craftsmen. By infusing the appeal and mastery of traditional crafts with modern interpretations, consumers and clients get access to traditional Japanese craft products that have been made relevant to their daily lives and the current market. This collaboration highlights but stays true to the core values of each creative community, and represents the start of a process to foster advancement for Japanese craft traditions.
Here are some of the stunning works you can expect to find in KYO's 2019 Collection:
Since their inception in 1932 in Tokyo, Sugahara's artisans have applied traditional Japanese design techniques to reveal and express the beauty of glass in their catalogue of unique handcrafted glassware. They communicate with glass by observing it and hearing its 'voice'. As the artisands shape each piece of glass at its key moment – in an extremely hot liquid form, organic shapes that capture the unique consistencies and intensity of glass is created.
Zeshin Shibata, a lacquer artisan from the late Edo to Meiji Eras was a master of tweaked lacquerware who refined the craft of Niigata Shikki. The current generation of artisans and designers practicing the craft started a challenge to revive the 160-year-old technique in Niigata - one of the few production districts in Japan designated to the craft.
Kozangama is a creative group of craftsmen who have inherited the soil of Kasama. They can produce earthenware with customised texture, weight, ease of use, forms and shapes giving the seemingly similar products individual characters.
Masu Bath, Tree to Green x WOHA
Each item produced by Tree to Green is handmade by craftsmen in Nagano Prefecture’s Kiso region, highly praised as “the forest that built Japanese history”. Kiso Hinoki is known for its antibacterial property, natural fragrance and high durability. The oldest wooden architecture of Japan, Horyuji Temple is built with Kiso Hinoki.
Founded in 1982, Asakura Senpu's team and facilities are dedicated to the research and development of textile processing techniques. In one of their key projects, they revisited the furoshiki that has been part of Japanese culture for over a thousand years with their water-repellent textile process. Their reinvented furoshiki expanded the common product's original function, since it could contain water, keep its contents dry in wet conditions and even worn as a poncho. It was awarded the Good Design Award in 2011.
Aiwa Shibori have had substantial experience in Hera Shibori – a metal hand-spinning technique. The niche industry is constantly challenged with new demands: creating new shapes and sizes, or having to apply the technique to new materials. The family team at Aiwa Shibori have always faced these challenges with innovation, and the experience they have gained contributes to their production of high-quality products.
A panel, ’Making Modern: Art, Design, & Craft’ will take place as part of the KYO Collection 2019 Launch programme. Moderated by The Artling’s Gallery Director Kim Tay, panelists will include Marc Webb and Naoko Takenouchi, Takenouchi Webb, Kyo Designer; Jackson Tan, BLACK, KYO Curator and Creative Director; and Regina Chan, Pomegranate, KYO sales, and Marketing Manager. This panel seeks to discuss the intersections between art, design and craft in a contemporary context, through the lens of Japan and SE Asia.
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The KYO Collection 2019 Launch will take place 12 March 2019, 3 - 5pm. RSVP is mandatory.
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