Taking a break here at the Creative Spotlight from musicians and filmmakers, we shift the focus back on the arts. We love people who think outside the box and Shinobu Koizumi is as innovative as they come. He proposes unique “experiences” as spaces, furniture, and products. He is the founder of Shinobu Koizumi Design Office and is a qualified bachelor of design and fine arts at Tokyo Zokei University. Read below for the full interview…
A lot of your designs incorporate an infusion of functunality. When you set out to create, are you also looking at problem-solving as well?
Shinobu: My most important factor of design is “what people feel” or “what people experience”, rather than problem-solving. Thinking about it is just like being up to mischief, so I have a thrill of joy.
Are these designs that have more than one function trying to solve constraints that you experienced in your everyday life?
Shinobu: I don’t add function to solve constraints. For example, “light in drawer” is lighting in the shape of drawers. Opening and shutting of [the] drawers is gives use of other purposes that adjust brightness. My aim is the change of perception. It can say my works has the function that operates one’s mind and elicit new experiences. It may be like art on the point that operates one’s mind. In fact, I don’t care that my works are regarded as either design or art as I don’t know the difference between them, and I think they seem to be uniting.
Do you feel any pressure exhibiting your work in high publicized venues?
Shinobu: Yes. It is necessary to make meaningful works, so I honestly worry about criticism.
One of my favorite designs from you is the Bagworm light, which is a light that you can decorate with small adhesive labels. How did the original concept inspired by a bag worm come about?
Shinobu: When I was a student of primary school, we put a naked bagworm into a box filled with many small cut color papers in a biology class, and surprisingly, the bagworm began to make its bag from papers. It can substitute materials in hand for leaves and twigs. I applied this D.I.Y. process to making a lampshade. Users can make various lampshades by substituting Post-it for other valuable materials. Of course, you can change it any time because it is easy to attach and detach.
For you, what is the most important aspect of your creations — comfort or ingenuity?
Shinobu: It’s [about] producing new experiences. It must not be unpleasant, and it must not be common. The shapes and colors of objects are secondary elements for me.
What is the biggest challenge you face concerning the strategic thinking that you must do in order to proceed effectively with the prototyping phase of your designs?
Shinobu: Commodification by companies are a popular method of making a profit. But it is not always my aim. Now I’ve received some orders from galleries and collectors, so I’m preparing selling my works in person. Some of my works are fitted for it.
Your stone chair features clocks with only second hands to visualize the invisible “elapsed time”. What kind of emotion are you looking to invoke out of a consumer by emphasizing importance to deny eternity?
Shinobu: “Eternal” is extremely like an art; not for consumers. Everything in this world will be decaying with time and time is so long that it seems immortal forever, but it is an illusion. I break it down it by visualizing this invisible “passage of time”, and show a concept, “Things are sure to break.” This concept is affected by the Tohoku Earthquake. When it happened, I realized that the earth, a great support of us, is not immortal, and it always has possibility of shake and collapse. This is applicable to anti-disaster facilities, too. If the dike was more high, Tsunami would not take such a heavy toll of human lives. If we didn’t depend on nuclear power generation, we would not be threatened by radioactivity and the same accidents will happen to us again without taking notice of the possibility of breakdown. For this reason, I must deny “eternity”. This stone chair is a metaphor of the earth, and a symbol of all pretend eternity. To show “passage”, and that abrupt inevitable accident, embedded clocks keeps on ticking and warning overrating objects.
Do you have any favorite Asian films you could share with us?
Shinobu: I like “Ame Agaru (After the Rain)”, a Japanese samurai film by Takashi Koizumi (same family name of me but unrelated person). Akira Kurosawa was supposed to direct this film, but he was in bad health and died, so his assistant Koizumi acceded to director. This is a story about a traveling ronin (masterless samurai) and his wife and the tender relationship between them. The beautiful green of leaves after the rain are highlights of this film.
Tokyo Zokei University was mainly created so students could investigate various problems concerning design directly connected to human life. Was your time spent getting a formal education a direct influence of your current work?
Shinobu: I was so affected by professor Kenji Oki (interior designer, 1950~) in Tokyo Zokei University. He is a pupil of Shiro Kuramata (interior designer, 1934~1991), and I learned much by his analyses about Kuramata’s work. On the other hand, we students attempted applying ready-made products to furniture in his class. It was fun that combining ready-made products with other materials. After graduation, I realized that ready-made products has some meaning, and it works as signs. About “power for brain” for example, its grip formed into wind-up has a meaning,”charging power”. This meaning, works as a sign, and the motion of drinking espresso looks like winding up a spring to restore the power, ‘for brain’.
Lastly, what new projects are you working on and do you have any upcoming exhibits throughout 2012?
Shinobu: A project of outdoor type lighting for a certain company is carrying on. I’m still undecided about exhibition, but if I publish something new, it will be a chair that I’m nursing.
Want to keep tabs on all of Shinobu’s projects? Follow his cookie crumb trail below:
Shinobu Koizumi Design Office
7-27-1-202 Takashimadaira, Itabashi-ku,
Tokyo 175-0082, Japan