Takahashi Kougei, is a group of skilled wood workers that was founded in Hokkaido, Japan in 1965 and who mainly produced table legs and ornamental pillars until the 1980’s when a downturn in the domestic furniture market caused them to change direction. The president of the group is now Takahashi Hidetoshi, who is the son of the lathe worker, Shoichi Takahashi, the original founder.
Oji Masanori and Ono Rina are two designers who work closely with the skilled workers at Takahasi Kougei to have their simple and functional tableware designs made. Using mainly Hokkaido-grown trees, they practise woodturning techniques handed down by the generations before them to produce tableware that is modern in feel and aesthetics but that retains a level of skill generally only seen by craftsmen who have a deep understanding of the materials and techniques used.
If you have seen the Kami mugs in person you will know exactly how delicate and light they are to touch. These wooden mugs are craftsmanship at its best. The mugs are designed by Oji Masanori and handmade by Takahashi Kougei. The word Kami means paper in Japanese and the mugs are both delicate and light but at the same time strong, qualities you associate with paper. The mugs are formed from Castor Aralia wood and are shaped by hand using a wheel to only a couple of millimetres thick, a very skilled and labour intensive process which results in each mug taking, on average, four weeks to make. The wood has to be specially sourced as the standard timber is not the right specification in terms of scale and size, the wood is then left to dry out completely for between 6 and 12 months. Once dry, the wood is cut and made into cylinder blocks and left to dry again before the process of turning by wheel begins.
“Image courtesy of IFJ HOLDINGS LTD.”
The cylinder blocks are hollowed using a secret technique and then sanded and left once again to fully dry. The final part of this production process involves the application of a food-grade urethane coating, before finally being polished. The work and time that goes into the process of making each individual Kami Mug results in a piece of tableware that is both beautiful and functional at the same time, which is surely the aim of most designers when they start on a project.
The wood works as a natural insulator, making these perfect for drinking your tea or coffee.
Oji Masanori, the designer of the Kami Mug, trained as an architect and graphic designer before setting up his own design firm, Oji & Design in 2004. He works with a number of different craftsmen depending on their individual skills and knowledge. He mainly designs pieces for the home which are both beautiful in their simplicity and clever in their functionality. Oji likes to be involved in every aspect of the finished design from the manufacture and production stage right through to the design and production of the packaging and branding, he works on every detail. The whole process of finding the right material and craftsmen to produce the design, is equally as important as the initial design stage.
Packaging for Kami Mug designed by Oji Masanori
In an interview last year, Oji Masanori was asked about why he is drawn to working with craftsmen and companies who have some sort of tradition and his response was, “I find it attractive because it’s different from mass production. It is extremely important that you know who has made the products and what material is used. Also, I personally like and respect traditional arts and crafts which represent continuity of the past and future.”
A new product for our homeware section, is another piece of craftsmanship from the Takahashi Kougei group but this time designed by Ono Rina. The “Cara” egg cup holders have a similar feel and look to the kami mugs in their simplicity. The egg cup holders are produced from linden wood using the same thin-wood-curving techniques as those used for the Kami Mug, and as a result the eggs fit seamlessly in the holders. Look out for these egg cup holders coming to our tableware collection in the coming weeks.
The egg cup holders are part of the ‘Cara’ range of wooden tableware designed by Ono Rina and handmade by Takahashi Kougei. Ono Rina established “rinao design” in 2007 and has been working in collaboration with Takahashi Kogei on the “Cara” and “Eni” series of wooden tableware since 2008.
Image courtesy of Rinao Design and designer Ono Rina.
Lathe photography image courtesy of Yasuyuki Ohashi, 2012.