SCP presents a special collection of new furniture, made in collaboration with Ishinomaki Laboratory, the Japanese DIY furniture company founded in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 Great Eastern Japan earthquake and tsunami. This exhibition marks ten years since the disaster, and features a diverse collection of different designs, all made to a strict brief.
Since meeting Ishinomaki Laboratory founder Keiji Ashizawa in 2014, Sheridan Coakley, founder of SCP, has developed a strong relationship with the company. At the invitation of Keiji, SCP became the first company to produce Ishinomaki Laboratory products outside of Japan, as part of their Made in Local initiative. SCP now produces Ishinomaki Laboratory products at their specialist factory in Norfolk, using the same techniques and skills as in Japan, but with locally available materials.
Sheridan Coakley and Keiji Ashizawa have together invited a distinctive list of UK-based designers to create new Ishinomaki Laboratory furniture designs for this very special exhibition, with a simple brief that each design should be made from stock board widths. All the designers are working to Ishinomaki Laboratory product guidelines, taking into consideration the machinery and tools available, while using materials efficiently to minimise waste. This will ensure that all the pieces can be manufactured by any of the Ishinomaki Laboratory Made in Local partners around the world.
A–Rack | Oscar Coakley
A neat coat and hat rack that utilises a thirty three degree angle. Made from western red cedar, it features five horizontal coat hooks and a slatted shelf above. Inspired by the principles of sacred geometry, it is made for daily use, and is therefore both robust and unobtrusive in nature. Available with or without shelf.
“It’s refreshing to make something that people may have for their whole lives.”
Ishinomaki Chair | Sam Hecht & Kim Colin
A balanced chair that respects raw material dimensions. Made from western red cedar, its geometry is informed by the need for it to be stable, comfortable and secure. Wider than it is deep, the solid design keeps the centre of gravity closer to the front than the back, ensuring stability. An elegant single radius steel tube provides back support, while hinting at the rounded form of the human body. It has been created with small spaces in mind, ideal for nestling under a counter.
"I like Ishinomaki Laboratory's work very much, I find it very primitive, but essential as well. It has a nice story to it. They are doing nice things, and the work feels good. There is a kind of good equilibrium between these limitations of facilities, techniques, distribution and those things."
Plant | Louis Devall
A horizontally slatted planter that can work for plants, flowers, storage and as an occasional bench. Made from western red cedar, it features powder-coated black steel legs with oak feet, a motif found in a number of the Ishinomaki Laboratory family of designs. The legs run up the inside of the structure and stop slightly short from the top, where there are two locating batons for the three slidable lids, which can be moved along to suit the user. This multifunctional design responds to the need for both flora and fauna indoors, and an occasional place to perch.
"The balcony at my flat became a plant pot city during lockdown. We have nothing that works as both storage and seating, which is really what we need. We have a sort of storage plastic bin thing which you can sit on, which is neither elegant nor nice. However, in the morning it catches the sun, so I will often go and perch on it with a coffee. I wanted to create something fit for this kind of occasional seating purpose."
Stoop | Jon Harrison
An intentionally ambiguous object whose chosen dimensions afford a lot of uses depending on its location. Designed with Le Corbusier’s human scale sketch in mind, the design grew out of a reductive process. Created to be stable, unobtrusive and ultimately useful. It is the perfect height to sit on, put your feet up while on a sofa, or for a child to stand on while at a sink. Made in western red cedar, it could also be taken outside to pick the apples.
"What I liked about the project was the restrictions, I really liked the fact that I had to work to certain sections. Sometimes as a designer you can start to beat yourself up over 20 millimetres, here or there."
Slide & Hide | Alex Hellum
A well proportioned coffee table with storage built in. In keeping with the original Ishinomaki Laboratory idea, the design has been created to be as simple as possible in terms of construction, allowing for it to be put together by people who are not makers. The design puts function before ostentation, with three movable boards acting as the coffee table surface. These can be moved to suit the user’s preferred configuration and can also be removed and used as trays. It features the powder-coated black steel legs and is made from western red cedar.
“I loved the idea of the social side of how the Ishinomaki Laboratory project was conceived. As an aid to people who had lost everything in the Tsunami. So for me, I didn't really consider any other route than to consider making a piece of furniture that could be put together by people who are not makers.”
Gym | Matthew Hilton
A low bench that takes inspiration from the classic gym benches once ubiquitous in British schools. These benches were solid, robust, and utilitarian in their design, which are exactly the qualities inherent in this design. It can be used in the hallway, as a low sideboard, at the end of a bed, or just as a regular bench. The construction and joinery are kept as simple as possible, in keeping with the Ishinomaki Laboratory aesthetic and manufacturing methods. Made from western red cedar and suitable for outdoor use.
“These utilitarian benches so ubiquitous in British schools perform many functions in the gym, they are seats to sit on, beams to balance on, turn them on their sides and they are goals for indoor football. In the same way, our bench can be used in many different ways.”
Birdbath | Reiko Kaneko
A design created for birds rather than people, but which may end up on the dining table. This piece has been created to be as simple as possible and seeks to encourage people to embrace the DIY aesthetic and attitude of Ishinomaki Laboratory. Two pieces of wood have been put together in an interlocking pattern, to form the base for a bowl, to create a bird bath. The design is being made available with a terracotta bowl, but works with any relatively shallow bowl. Low to the ground, this is ideally placed near some bushes in a garden. Made from western red cedar.
“The idea was to keep it simple. I don't want to call it an anti-design piece, because I don't design against stuff necessarily, not normally. I would say it is a piece that seeks to make people think about the whole DIY idea, and whether they could make things for themselves. Which is the true spirit of Ishinomaki Laboratory.”
Frank | Sarah Kay
A dining table of modest proportions and elegant looks. Designed to balance structural rigidity, good looks and the most minimal use of materials. The idea was to create something simple and easy to construct, which kept to the scale of the timber, reducing the need for sawing, cutting down and machining in the manufacturing process. Made in red western cedar, this is a perfectly proportioned table of ideal scale for urban living spaces.
“The fixed dimensions we had to work with made the design process enjoyable. I cut a load of wood to scale and then played with it like lego, it was a lot of fun.”
Side Tables I & O | Livia Lauber
A pair of nesting tables with a sculptural look. One table is slightly taller with a rectangular top, while the other has a round top. Both tops are formed with two separate pieces joined by the base sections. The designs interrelate with each other and appear as neat proportional exercises in constructivist woodworking. Characterful and charming, they are made in western red cedar.
“The Ishinomaki Laboratory idea of producing locally makes so much sense, and puts into question whether we need really complex things to live with. Maybe we don't need free form shapes, but functional things that work, and work for the future as well, in terms of climate change and sustainability.”
Café chair | Philippe Malouin
A small occasional chair of basic construction that is designed to be made in the simplest way possible. The chair has a sculpture sensibility and is in keeping with the original Ishinomaki Laboratory brief. It only requires 90 degree cuts in its construction and is screwed together using the signature black screws, found across the Ishinomaki Laboratory family of products. Made from western red cedar, the design is sturdy, stable and has a very small footprint. It’s ideal for small spaces, as a place to stop, perch and have a few moments reflection.
“Ishinomaki Laboratory products were originally designed for other people to make, and therefore needed as little handling as possible. That is exactly what this chair was designed for. I didn’t want to use angled cuts and rounded corners, it was literally about utilising as little as possible and making something out of the standard sizes. I really like the fact there isn’t even an angled cut in the design, all the cuts are 90 degrees.”
Shichi | Michael Marriott
A barstool conceived from a system of production, first created for a family of domestic designs that were shown in Design Koishikawa in Tokyo in 2016. This new design, like the rest of the family, is based on the use of one section of western red cedar timber. Taking inspiration from both the Toyota motor company’s industry changing “Just in Time” manufacturing technique, and the Japanese conceptual artist On Kawara’s system of daily date paintings, this is a design rooted in significant and beautiful ideas. As a design, it is remarkably slim, stable, and lightweight.
“I developed this system using one section of timber, which was the same section I had used for the original Ishinomaki Laboratory piece I had designed, which was a clothing rail. I really enjoyed having that restriction of how you make a large family of furniture from one section of cedar. Back in London, I then made a couple of prototype bar stools, as I hadn't made the bar stool in the original collection. It felt like part of that Ishinomaki Laboratory family and it existed as a prototype, so it was very easy to suggest it to Sheridan for this project. There was a drawing already. It was pure laziness on my part. Or we could call it: economy of energy.”
Left & Right | Ilse Crawford & Oscar Peña
A pair of small characterful side tables made in two different ways, both with hand-drawn circular tops. They are designed to capture the spirit and magic of Japanese joinery and to appear more hand-made than machine made. Both are constructed in a way where the tops are made from two pieces of overlapping wood that interlock together, with the bottom sections connecting them vertically. They are low and ideal for placing next to a sofa or lounge chair. They are small enough to live on the floor, a table, a shelf or a windowsill, and ideal to place all manner of objects on. Made in red western cedar, they also feature the signature Ishinomaki Laboratory black screws.
“The idea is that they are quite low, they become like background products, which is something in the values of Ilse's studio. When we do products we often try to do things in the background, not the foreground, not shouty. They look like they have been there for many years.”
“It's always good to have options for things around your chair or sofa, but those two have seen off the other things. Everything else seems too big and cumbersome and annoying. They are sort of visible and invisible, and everything is right about them.”
Patio | Daniel Schofield
A lounge chair created through an intuitive constructivist approach to design. It takes the overlapping A-joint, seen in a number of Ishinomaki Laboratory products, as a starting point. The design has a purity and balance to it, perhaps evoked by the fact the line of the front leg is followed to create the line of the seat back. Made from western red cedar, it is intended for use both indoors and outdoors.
“I think as a designer it's actually quite nice to have all of those constraints. It ends up being quite an intuitive process, because you know how it's going to be constructed, that kind of informs the design. When I was designing the chair it was peak lockdown, so I wanted something that I could use inside and outside.”
FLW | Samuel Wilkinson
A compact lounge chair that offers a relaxed kind of comfort. It takes inspiration from the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and the idea of creating a floating Tatami chair. The design is three monolithic vertical wooden pillars that are configured to support two upholstered cushions and two horizontal arms. In keeping with the Ishinomaki Laboratory ethos, the upholstery sections are made to be as simple as possible to manufacture, allowing for differing local production methods. They are essentially structured pillows with wooden internal panels. This version is made with fully sustainable materials: western red cedar, and for the upholstery, coconut mat with rubberised filling and needled wool.
“With this kind of rounded upholstery and the materials used, you just kind of fall into it, it will probably take the impression of the person after a while, but that is nice, it's not too formed. It's a relaxed kind of comfort. The curves on the arms should give a little tactility too.”