MJ AIR 2019 - 3 designers stay in Japan until the end of July


Weekly reports from the designers

After exciting presentations of the finalists at MONO JAPAN 2019, we welcomed these 3 designers as our first residents of MJ AIR.

- Pao Hui Kao collaborated with Aizu shikki in Fukushima
- Maryam Kordbacheh collaborated with Yoshida shingi shozoku in Kyoto
- Jonas Althaus collaborated with Sekishu washi in Shimane

They flew and arrived at 3 different locations in Japan after months of preparations and communications with the locals. 

Jonas Althaus (collaborated with Sekishu washi in Shimane)

Report 1: In Shimane prefecture, Jonas Althaus is having an exciting introduction to Sekishu papermaking. Getting to know the history and all the processes of papermaking is important to further develop his idea.

Sekishu Kagura, a type of Shinto theatrical dance is still very popular in this area and an important element to understand Sekishu paper. In Sekishu Kagura paper masks are used for its performance which resulted in the development of creating a thicker and stronger paper.


Report 2: Jonas Althaus has visited shoji screen carpenters and uchiwa workshops to get to know more about washi paper applications. After the numerous introductions, he has finally started his exciting material research integrating conductive materials into the washi paper.


Report 3: Reflecting on the experiments of the past weeks, Jonas decided to focus on one methodology in order to conclude in a material that is ready for production and various applications. With a great help from craftsmen, he started a thorough material research, blending small pieces of conductive fibers into the washi paper ingredients.


Report 4: Through the intense material research, Jonas has figured out the material recipe, which made him to be able to focus on producing a good number of conductive washi paper. Over 30 sheets are scoped, pressed and dried so far. The design of the final prototype is also decided to be a glowing shoji room divider integrating the developed material and Kumiko technique (Japanese woodcraft technique). To execute the plan, a local woodcraft maker Yoshihara woodworks offered their help for making the wooden frame. The great teamwork of Jonas and all the craftsmen are making it possible to realize the innovative idea.


Report 5: Jonas has started applying the traditional technique of dripping water onto the freshly scoped sheet, creating a pattern. After the papermaking process, Jonas made a selection of papers to be used for the prototype of the glowing shoji room divider, checking the quality of all the papers made so far. Besides that, he prepared a system for setting up and coding for the touch-sensitive illumination. After receiving the wooden frames made by a local wood workshop, Jonas and craftsmen started to assemble the wood and paper into making triangular modules. First, they install the technological components (microcontroller and led lights), and later they cut and glue the paper to the frames. Using a lot of helps, 10 pairs of triangles has been made so far. 

Maryam Kordbacheh (collaborated with Yoshida shingi shozoku in Kyoto)

Report 1: Maryam Kordbacheh had a great start of the residency at a Shinto priest uniform maker in Kyoto. As an introduction, she has been brought to several historical shrines, museums, traditional textile makers and an embroidery workshop in Kyoto. She has also got an opportunity to look into the archives of the garments that belong to the emperor of Japan. The craftsmen’s passion for the tailoring craft and its tradition is giving her a great inspiration to develop her idea further.


Report 2: After the inspiring introduction weeks, Maryam Kordbacheh has started brainstorming and working on her colour palette, designs, constructions and details. Reflecting on the traditional techniques and philosophy that she has learned so far, she takes the next step to translate the input into her own language. 


Report 3: Maryam’s working table is filled with colors and experiments. She has started mapping out
the sample of colors, fabrics and constructions to sharpen her idea. Having imperial garments next to her torso as a reference, she is diving into research on shapes and drapes.


Report 4: In Kyoto, Maryam is developing her design by making little trials, learning details about techniques, dying fabrics and working with photos. Besides the making process, her eyes are caught by the great variety of beautiful tools which are designed very thoughtfully. She is also fascinated with the way craftsmen pack and fold the garments, which shows their special care and respect for each garment.


Report 5: In Kyoto, first fabrics have died in chosen colours. 

With great help from craftsmen, first prototypes are getting cut and sewn together. Many meters and meters of handwork is being involved. The important summer event in Kyoto 'Gion festival', has also been inspiring to Maryam.



Pao Hui Kao (collaborated with Aizu shikki in Fukushima)

Report 1: Pao Hui Kao has started her exciting research about Urushi lacquer craft in Fukushima. Starting from a visit to Urushi craftsmen, she made a study visit to an Urushi tree farm, a local museum, an Urushi craft fair and wood carving craftsmen. She had also joined a traditional Japanese dinner gathering to actually experience 100 years old urushi lacquer tableware. Translating these diverse inputs, she will develop her own material research further.


Report 2: Pao Hui Kao had other inspiring meetings with a local Urushi master Mr Igarashi and a wood carving craftsman. Meanwhile, she has also given a lecture to the local Urushi community. Reflecting on what she has seen and learned so far, she is now developing her design proposals to be discussed with the urushi craftsmen. 


Report 3: Through many design sketches, Pao made a final dimension and shape of the design to be fixed. Based on her design, 20 pieces of wooden plates has been already shaped with a
press machine. She has also visited a craftsman specialized in urushi decoration for finding a possible application to her design.


Report 4: In Fukushima, Pao is finalizing the design of plates by deciding on colors and textures.

The plates are already on the production process now. Besides the plates making, she is also trying to develop other projects. Urushi craft is such a profound discipline to grasp in two months. Her challenge now is to make the most of the time left and to carry out the ideas.


Report 5: The 20 wooden plates went through the different decoration application process. The decorated plates create a beautiful harmony of colors and textures. Next to the urushi plates project, Pao has also made three-mirror design proposals.