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Q&A with Thomas Lykke, Head of Design and Founding Partner at OEO Studio

The studio has had a long working relationship with Japan. When and how did it start?

As a studio, our relationship with Japan started back in 2008, and personally, the journey and relationship – or obsession if you will – started back when I was a young man. Martial arts training lead to a fascination of the culture and history of Japan. Martial arts were the springboard into a world of beauty, aesthetics, honour and rituals. But to jump back to 2008 and to our virgin trip to Japan – a trip that in many ways jump-started and defined who we are today. The first years following our visit were about establishing relationships and trust. Little by little, we became accepted and invited in. Our first working relationship on our long, long list was with Kyoto-based premium textile maker HOSOO founded in 1688. Today, we feel part of the family and still work closely together. Our projects in Japan range from crafts to corporate, hospitality to residential homes. You can find our works in the permanent collections of both V&A in London, Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Paris) as well as the Smithsonian (NYC)

Creatively and/or cultural, what has been the most rewarding thing about your years working in Japan and with Japanese companies?

There are many, yet there are a few that stand out. What has been especially rewarding are our friendships and relations built over the years – they are priceless!
To be invited in with open arms and welcomed to the families is reward enough in itself. Together with 6 craftsmen from Kyoto, we established Japan Handmade (referenced GOON-project in Japan), which is a crafts collaborative that aims to encourage a new generation of craftspeople not to look back but to the future. A project is much larger than the objects themselves. Japan Handmade is a crafts movement with a vision and with great cultural and socioeconomic impact.

Anne-Marie is the managing partner and Thomas is the creative force in the studio. Do you collaborate on both creative and business issues, or is there a strict line between the two?

We have different skills, yet we work as a team and are best described as Ying and Yang. It is very fluent and natural. One balances the other.

The collection you have made for Frameworks Gallery – what’s it about?

Our collection for Frameworks is a distillation of our world of inspiration. Over the years, we have gathered a rather large collection of inspirational objects and pieces. We are nerdy of sort. We find inspiration in all kinds of things. From broken to perfect and natural to alien, whether in colour, tactility or texture. Often objects that are not obvious to others. It’s like an ever-changing wunderkammer and library of inspiration. A few selected objects in all their simplicity taken out of their natural contexts. A reflection of time and moment. We hope that we can inspire people and make them pause for a moment to reflect. Sometimes it’s the simple things that bring the biggest pleasures. How often do you pick up a stone to study it and keep it because there is something that allures you? Most often we are drawn to things that are perfect, yet what is perfect?

Thomas, tell us a little about how photography serve your creative process?

I use photography to focus on my world. I am fascinated with composition and what brings a photo or image to life. To me, it’s all about composition. I guess photography is kind of a tool for me to create. I think in visuals and imagine a shoot. Photography is a passion for me.

And from a nerdy perspective; you’re a Leica-guy – what are you packing? (model and lenses)

True, I am a Leica man and over the years I have had several different Leica M’s. We have also designed two bags for Leica Japan, one for the Leica M and one for the T model. The Leica I am currently using is a Model Q with a Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH

Are you always looking for images regardless of what you’re doing, or do you assign a specific time for photographing?

I am always on the lookout for a great shot. Often, I think to myself that I should carry my camera on me all the time, yet I don’t and therefore most often I shoot like most other people using my phone. I think that’s a pity, though. I need to change that habit and start carrying the camera on me all the time. This was one of the reasons I swapped the M for the Q.