Iwatemo, a fine addition to the narrative of Scandinavian design

February 2019

Japan have in periods taken action to maintain and nurture its domestic craft culture in order for it not to vanish in the vortex of western influences, which started flooding the island after it opened its door to the world in 1868. The legendary artist Shoji Hamada’s revitalisation of the small potter village of Mashiko in the Tochigi prefecture during the 20s and 30s is a good example of that.

Since a few years back an effort by Japan on a national scale, has taken place to give its prefectures the incentive to breath new life into its slumbering local craft traditions. One of these prefectures is Iwate in northern Japan and to help bring out the unique traits in this part of the island, a fresh perspective were brought in from Finland. The well merited designers Ville Kokkonen and Harri Koskinen were chosen for this task and neither of them are any stranger to the Japanese design scene. Koskinen has worked with the Issey Miyake brand, a collaboration which resulted in the coveted Vakio watch in 2003 and Kokkonen were instrumental in re-establishing the Finnish furniture brand Artek in Japan while functioning as its design director between 2008 and 2014.

So in 2016, Kokkonen and Koskinen started to identify the materials and techniques specific for Iwate and three companies where chosen to work with for their superior quality, Iwaizumi Junboku Furniture Inc. for wooden carpentry, Porcelain studio Tourai for hand made porcelain and Sankyo Kinzoku for Nambu Tekki ironware. These are the same materials that the finish designer Kaj Frank took to heart in 1956, when he as one of the very first Finnish designers, visited Japan.

Now, over half a century later during the Stockholm Design Week (4-8 February), Kokkonens and Koskinens efforts were neatly packaged and presented in the showroom of Jacksons in Stockholm, an established dealer in 20th-century Scandinavian and international vintage design. Next to Danish mid-century furniture by designers such as Børge Mogensen, Kokkonen and Koskinen together with local artist Kasuyoshi Osawa presented their individual collections which included tea kettles, pitchers, cups, saucers and wooden stools and a chair. The overall result is the new brand Iwatemo which now holds a collection that constitutes a very solid marriage between Finnish design sensibility and Japanese craft tradition.