Catching serendipity - Floating sculptures with a warming touch
A set of cascading window frames drifting in the air, four wooden discs swinging like the Jupiter’s rings, intermingling rings dangling in slow motion—these are the TEMPO kinetic sculptures handcrafted by Mother Tool, a small workshop in Japan with a burning passion to revitalise traditional craftsmanship.
From a quick glance, Mother Tool looks like a modest workshop in any suburban towns in Japan, those who are forgotten in the age of outsourcing productions to China and other parts of Asia. When husband and wife Toshiya Murohashi and wife Miho Nakamura took over the workshop from Miho’s father, the main business was assembling pachinko machines, a popular Japanese pinball device. Though the assembly work of a pachinko machine is done manually, there is little to speak of respecting the timelessness of traditional craftmanship as the pachinko machine will be used and discarded merely after three years in use. For Miho, this is discouraging so she sets out to explore other paths for the assembly workshop.
Starting out as a simple idea, Miho meets with furniture designer Kazuaki Murasawa, a local craftsman and a group of product designers based in Tokyo, hence the first stationary collection made of aluminium and wood takes shape.
As she sets out to explore potential collaboration, Miho stumbles upon a workshop manufacturing fighter plane before the war, with many old craftsmen skilful in processing metal like aluminium. With this encounter, the Mobile Collection comes into being, bringing together Drill Design, a Tokyo based design unit, together with ten workshops and factories taking part in painting and manufacturing various parts. The Mobile collection is introduced in the fall of 2013, with nine designs of mobile kinetic structures, which would enliven a still space with their fleeting moves.
The seemingly simplistic sculptures demand strict precision to maintain the perfect balance and poise. The Mobile collection does not merely utilise the skills of local craftsmen, the novel uses of the materials challenges the understanding and limits of the material itself, bringing craftsmanship to another level and finding new meaning for craftsmanship in our overly mass-produced society.
The parts produced by various factories are delivered to Mother Tool workshop, where a talented team of workers, led by Miho’s husband, Shunya Murohashi, assembles different components by hand. Strict assembling procedures are required to ensure the sculpture hanging in place in serenity.
TEMPO Mobile collection may look light and delicate, but it is made with the highest quality in mind. The sculpture is built to last, and it epitomises the pinnacle of traditional craftmanship uniting with contemporary design. As the gravity-defying sculpture dances in the air, you are not only enchanted by its grace, but also touched by the warmth of craftsmen’s hands.
Photo: Yuki Watanabe / mother tool / ZAKKAsine