oji masanori utensil holder
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Hunting for Beauty in Materials: Masanori Oji

Japanese handicraft designer, Masanori Oji has a way of finding beauty in materials and expressing it in simple forms and items for the home. Originally trained as an architect, he works with some of Japan’s best craftsmen to create objects out of metal, wood, and porcelain under the moniker of his studio, Oji & Design.

Three years ago Masanori relocated from Tokyo to the historic, slower paced city of  Kawagoe, where his design studio is now based.  About an hour from Tokyo, this picturesque town,  in the Saitama Prefecture is known for its sweet potatoes, candy stores and remnants of Edo-period culture and traditions. “It is a place where you can still see ancient culture and streets.  I lived in Tokyo before, but I thought about how nice it would be for children to play in nature and have a relaxed walk with my family on old streets, so I decided to move out of the city” says Oji.

To add another dimension to his longstanding career as a designer, next year he and his friends are working towards the launch of a shop called Kumu (meaning to link or unite) in Tokyo that will bring together the work of this talented group. It will feature his full line of home goods  along with the work of other talented designers.  “The world is a collage of people and things from all over the place. They may appear unrelated, but they fill the space with positive energy when they meet one another in appropriate settings. We are aiming to create a place for those pieces of the world to get together. This is going to be the most exciting project in the next few years” says Masanori.

oji masanori jug

INTERVIEW: Oji Masanori, Designer, Oji & Design, Kawagoshi City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan 

01 How would you describe the aesthetic of the objects you create?
「その素材で作るべきか?」「その技術で作るべきか?」という問いを常に考えながら素材と技術に向き合い形を考えます。
ある形を実現したいためだけに、素材と技術を使うということはしません。
伝統工芸の世界では「完成形」があると思い込みがちですが、そうではなく、素材と仕上げの間にあるグラデーションの中で埋もれていた美しい表情を探しだすのも大事な作業の一つです。

When I design, I give my full attention to the material and technology involved. I constantly ask myself, “Is this the right material?” and “Is this the right technology?” I never use certain material or technology just so that I can achieve a certain form. It is often mistakenly assumed that there is a “perfect form” in the world of traditional arts and crafts. This isn’t true. It is quite important to search out the beautiful appearance buried in the gradation between the raw material and the finished product.

02 What materials do you typically work with as a designer?
素材にこだわりはありません。出会った会社が得意としている技術と素材を最大限活かせるデザインを考えています。

My design is not limited by material.  I can come out with a design by leveraging the best technology and material available.

03 What was the inspiration and process involved behind designing your brass cast cutlery set for example? 
FUTAGAMIは元々仏具を作っているメーカーなのですが、5年前から一緒に真鍮の素材感を活かしたプロダクトを作っています。
表面のザラッとした鋳肌の表情が特徴で、その真鍮のザラッとした質感を活かしたプロダクトを色々作っています。
カトラリーは西洋の道具を日本的に解釈した道具を作りたいと思いました。箸を扱うときのような感覚になれるような形状をしています。

oji masanori cutlery

Brass casting manufacturer, FUTUGAMI who used to make Buddhist altar fitting products is who I started working with five years ago to make brass products (like the cutlery).  Their zaratsu surface is characterized by the expression of a rough, textured casting surface.  The cutlery takes advantages of the texture of this brass zaratsu. I designed the cutlery to explain and express Western tableware in the Japanese way.  It needs to be shaped well to make people feel that they are holding chopsticks, or that it reminds people of the feeling of  holding chopsticks.

04 How about the bagel plate!? What is it made out of and why did you create this tray with a cup in the middle?
木製のカップとプレートならガラス等に比べて弾性があって落としても割れにくいので、よくバーベキューやキャンプで使っています。
友人たちとキャンプをして屋外で立って食事をしていたときに、カップとプレートを持って食べるのが難しかったのでお皿に穴を開けてはめることが出来たら片手でコップとプレートを持つことができるなと思い、製作しました。

oji masanori bagel plate

In comparison to glass or another similar material, a wooden cup or plate has better elasticity and it is hard to break if you drop it.  For the bagel plate, it is often hard to hold both a cup and a plate at the same time when you and your friends are standing outside of the house and eating.  So, I thought it would be nice to create a hole in the plate for the cup.  This way it would be easier to hold both cup and plate while standing and chatting.

05 How often do you design new tableware items?
毎年新しいアイテムを作る予定はあります。今は来年に向けて日本酒のためのピッチャーと器を作っています。真鍮のカトラリーもいくつか新たに作る予定です。他にもまだ色々あります。

I plan to come out with new items every year.  Currently I am making pitcher for Japanese Saka.  On top of that, I also plan to make some more brass cutlery plus a few other items.

oji masanori kakudo plate

06  Where can your work be purchased?
こちらのリンクを参照してください。世界での販売店のリンクが載っています。

Please refer to the link below.  You can find worldwide sellers of my products
http://www.if-j.org/about/

oji masanori kami plate

oji masanori knife block

oji masanori utensil holder
Photo Source: Oji & Design

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