Cement is one of those much-aligned materials. We rail against concrete buildings, slabs, roads and the like, but take an architect like Tadao Ando and he will show you what can be done with concrete when there’s a good design by it.
And here’s one.
Nobuhiro Sato is a craftsmen from that center of the art of monozukuri, Kyoto. He is a designer who likes to use procured materials such as plastic bags. Sato first worked with cement to make incense burners, molded into the shape of mini houses. Since then he’s gone on to try out coasters and other small domestic objects, taking what is usually relegated to the exterior and bringing it inside the home.
There’s something about cement that looks soft and cute when it’s reduced down to a household scale. What is usually masonry, propping up walls or roads, is somehow compelling when we can hold it in our hands as, in this case, a tack for pinning up photos.
The Cement Push Pins are a set of six tacks that will bring in a sense of construction and stone to your office or home.
Sato actually uses ice cube trays to make his pins by hand each time. It’s time-consuming to get them perfectly vertical and he had to experiment till he understood the curing process.
Now he makes two types of his sets of six; smooth or pebbles.
One of our favorite Japanese enterprises, Maywa Denki, has made a typically originally and hilarious group music video to celebrate twenty years since it was founded.
Maywa Denki is part music band, part art unit, inspired by the medium-sized production companies that have been the backbone of Japan’s manufacturing and technology growth. They create unique products, run special kids’ workshops, perform concerts and more.
Its hits include the Otamatone sound toy, a remake of the classic Theremin, and many other “nonsense” machines and musical products.
And not only are these designers talented folk, they certainly don’t take themselves seriously at all, as we think you can tell from the video!
Produced by Novumichi [sic] Tosa (he’s the guy on the bottom row), past employees include the sound designer Yuri Suzuki, another one of our favorite Japanese talents. The founder styled the unit from the name of his father’s old manufacturing firm, though Maywa Denki itself was originally signed to Sony Music Entertainment and is now managed by entertainment giant Yoshimoto Kogyo.
Even better news than this video? There is going to be a twentieth anniversary concert at Akasaka Blitz on December 13th!
Just when we thought technology would replace everything, we hear about an event like iPhone Creative Festa and meet people who say — not just yet! Perhaps we all have this inner desire to be different from others, which urges us to seek — or become — the one and only something in the world.
From October 4th to 6th, iPhone Creative Festa 2013 will take place at Yokohama Akarenga to promote both established and emerging artists who like to use iPhone and iPad cases as a blank canvas to exercise their exquisite talent.
The event originally started in August 2010 as a way to exhibit iPhone cases as artwork and to commercialize them by promoting various artists who don’t get a chance to showcase their talent, let alone monetize their work on a regular basis. It has since attracted more than 230,000 visitors, and so far the exhibition has been held in Osaka, Ginza, and Paris.
While it’s not clear who the main organizer is (“iPhone Case Exhibition” is their name on the official site), the event is co-hosted by Yokohama Arts Foundation and co-sponsored by Focal Point Inc., a company that sells computer and mobile device accessories. It is also supported by Joint Works and a nonprofit organization called Creator Raising Association.
Here are some artworks from the past events.
Some are on sale, so whoever gets it first will take it all, as there is no other copy in stock!
With iPad cases this is obviously more room to experiment, yet these might go against the whole concept of being “mobile” — do you think you can still carry them around?
Visitors can also get hands-on experience in workshops and explore the iPhone photo exhibition held at the same venue.
The video clip below shows a short tour around the exhibition held last year.
iPhone Creative Festa 2013 takes place from October 4th to 6th. Admission is free.
We really love the +d brand by h concept, which works with individual designers to produce very cool but very practical stationery and other fun stuff for the home.
The Kaba Crayons are a new example. Designed by Ryo Shimura, these colorful hippos (kaba) are flat on one side, so you can sit them on your desk or notepad and they then look like real creatures wallowing in a river in Africa.
Plus the flat side also means you can hold two different crayons at the same time, giving you double the color with each line you draw.
The unusual shape of the hippo allows for a range of drawing possibilities. For example, you can use the head for more detailed work, while the large back and side curves are better for broader strokes.
This isn’t just an expensive crayon for hipsters’ kids. +d is actually donating part of the sales of the Kaba to environment conservation charities, in keeping with the nature theme of the product.
We’re going to go out on a limb here and appoint the Solano as the most stylish uchiwa (handheld fan) we have seen this year.
It comes in four semi-transparent, translucent colors, and can be stood up, ready waiting on your desk when the next bout of humidity hits you. In other words, it’s an awesome desktop ornament on top of being a practical tool.
Any visit to Loft or Tokyu Hands will reveal that every summer Japanese consumers are inundated with a choice of new fans and tenugui hand towels to purchase. See our list of summer cooling products for some of the other kinds of items out there.
Amongst all the fans with mock-Japanese patterns and motifs, the Solano is pretty standout, though. Made with zinc alloy and resin, the colors are as calming as the breeze you create with your fanning.
The item comes courtesy of the Naft brand and is being sold by Sempre in Japan, and available internationally via JapanTrendShop.
Lanterns in Japan are called chochin and are featured on the front of most izakaya restaurants, as well as shrines. There is a famously huge one, for example, at Kaminarimon (“Thunder Gate”) in Asakusa, Tokyo.
Typically they are red and decorated with the name of the restaurant/temple, and sometimes the type of food being served.
You can also see white or other colored lanterns at shrines and temples, often decorated with the name of the local business that sponsored them.
Meanwhile, a great scheme to increase the consumption of Japan-grown ingredients has seen green lanterns (midori chochin) hanging from the entrance to some izakaya, with stars to indicate how much of their produce comes from local suppliers and farmers.
Well, here’s another smart way to use Japanese lanterns by GOES Inc, this time with traffic signals.
With the Japanese Lantern Signal, now pedestrians can cross the road with a bit of Edo chic.
The designers say that if you mistake the light for a regular izakaya chochin, then you’re already too drunk and it’s time to go home!
On another note, we’ve always loved how traffic signals in Japan feature men with hats. Even the symbol for a pedestrian is a salaryman!
The idea is that each girl showcases a pair of headphones that represents her style and look, along with the song they are listening to. Needless to say, the girls are on the cute side.
Headphone makers and series include Sony, Pioneer, Mix Style, Zumreed and more.
You can then preview the track choices by jumping to iTunes.
The media is a side project by Kubrick Design and has featured over 100 models, amateur and pro. It has also been exhibited a few times in Tokyo as well.
Headphones in Japan, perhaps more so than other places, are a design and fashion choice as much as an audio one.
A website like Tokyo Headphone Girls is playing up to this — these headphones tell you something about the girls and their personalities. They also mostly (and rather endearingly) seem to fall into a certain kind of demographic, what I nickname “cafe girls”, the laissez-faire young ladies you can find populating or working at the cafes of Harajuku, Aoyama, Shimokitazawa, Shibuya et al.
Unfortunately, music taste being perhaps even more defining than fashion accessories, you may find yourself disappointed just as much as you are charmed by the headphone girls. Um, Savage Garden anyone?
Nano Nano is a series of micro character toys and models made from miniature electronic parts and other metal objects.
Designed by Kouichi Miyajima and created in his atelier, they are sold as phone straps — Japanese people typically have something dangling from their device — but could also sit happily just on a shelf or desk.
We love how they mix retro robot motifs with Disney-esque creatures, and with a very original approach to how they are composed.
For example, the bodies might be bits of batteries and there might be little hooks for hands. All the eyes are these large black beads, which in any other situation would be a bit scary but here looks super cute.
Each one being handmade they are obviously also all a bit different, even ones ostensibly with the same design.
Currently on sale at stores at the Tokyo Sky Tree and Roppongi Hills and other specialist shops, this series has developed a bit of a cult following locally.
A couple of models are now available on JapanTrendShop for overseas shipping and no doubt they could deal with any other requests you might have for different models.
Designer dog houses adapted to match the breed of the pooch? Well, it already no secret that the Japanese do love two things — pets and good design — so perhaps this marriage was inevitable. After all, we’ve previously seen this two come spectacularly together to create duck-bill design Oppo Quack dog muzzles.
A group of architects, led by designer maestro Kenya Hara, has proposed a series of special dog homes, each one customized for a particular kind of canine.
Participants in the Architecture for Dogs project include Atelier Bow-Wow, Kazuyo Sejima, Kengo Kuma, Shigeru Ban, Sou Fujimoto and Toyo Ito, and more.
Here’s how Hara himself puts it: “Dogs are people’s partners, living right beside them, but they are also animals that humans, through crossbreeding, have created in multitudes of breeds. Reexamining these close partners with fresh eyes may be a chance to reexamine both human beings themselves and the natural environment.”
Word got out online about the project in November but the website has only just gone live, and it also recently exhibited at the Miami Design District.
From the website dog-owners can download blueprints for the designs, plus instructions and videos for how to construct and customize them for your own pet.
There will be another exhibition, this time in Tokyo, in October 2013, along with a book.