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.
INTERVIEW: Oji Masanori, Designer, Oji & Design, Kawagoshi City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan
01 How would you describe the aesthetic of the objects you create?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
06 Where can your work be purchased?
Please refer to the link below. You can find worldwide sellers of my products
Photo Source: Oji & Design