You come from two different countries and cultures and seem to have found a common language in woodworking and craftsmanship. Do you ever experience that you somehow silently communicate through your skills and knowledge?
Through years of collaboration and many projects, we have built a lot of confidence in each other’s skills. When we go about our separate parts of a project, it doesn’t require lengthy explanations. So yes–a silent communication through skills.
Being a couple both privately and professionally, and on top of that having your workshop as part of your private house, are you able to ever have free time or are you immersed in your work 24/7?
Taking time off requires discipline and commitment. If not, we can easily work around the clock. Ken spends time on the sea in his Kayak and Akiko enjoy spending time with her friends, but we have to be out of the house.
How do you experience the differences between the craft culture of Japan and Denmark?
Denmark has a long and solid tradition of collaboration between designer and craftsman. In Japan, what is most striking, is the immensely high level of knowledge and skills.
Tell us how your projects come about; do you collaborate on both design and making?
New projects are often born from commissions. We enjoy the challenge and spend time contemplating the assignment. Usually, Akiko is the first to begin, with sketches and small models from cardboard or wood. Then Ken joins in, giving his perspective on how to construct and build. This gives us a common direction to work from, going into the workshop, to test our ideas with real size mock-ups.
During this period, the sketchbook is always present wherever we go, even when we have dinner, and gets filled with ideas, details and adjustments.
Slowly the craftsmanship and attention to detail take over, working with the project in the workshop, honing every single detail. The process of seeing the project materialize into a finished product, and experience how our common skills come into play, is truly rewarding for both of us.
What professional trait do you admire most about your partner?
Ken: I admire Akiko for her limitless mind and how she’s able to mix and evolve ideas. It’s very rewarding as it always gives us much material to work with.
Akiko: Ken has such a vast experience from his many years working as a cabinetmaker. He’s never afraid to take on new challenges and can realize absolutely anything we come up with.
Tell us about your collection for Frameworks Gallery?
“How can we display the essence of our work?” That’s how we approached this assignment. The arrangement of the products is like a city plan, with circles and square seen from above, and their true shape revealed in perspective.
You have lived in Denmark for several years now. Can our behaviour and the cultural differences between Denmark and Japan still surprise you?
I genuinely appreciate the equality between generations in Denmark. In Japan, you change your language and attitude depending on whether it’s older or younger people you communicate with.
There’s a delicate quietness about your work, which stand out in a world of products that compete for attention. Is it merely your nature, or is it in part a deliberate statement about the need to move more slowly in the world?
The delicate quietness is simply a part of who I am, and a natural language for me to communicate in. I strive to create products that have a useful and gentle presence in peoples everyday life.
What’s the first thing you do when you travel back to Japan?
Dinner with family and a stroll around my home town, taking in the air and nature.
For many years you have worked with the manufacturing of H. J. Wegner’s furniture, and now you find your challenges in your work. Do you seek specific challenges with the wood, or does aesthetics always come first?
The work we do, with design and in the workshop, is fulfilling and rewards me with all the challenges I desire.
Is there a specific type of wood you prefer to work with, and why?
Currently, it’s Pine! It’s an often-overlooked type of wood, with a beautiful straight grain pattern and a wonderful spiced scent to it, that comes alive when you process it.
There’s no doubt that you have a very perfectionistic approach to your craft. Have you ever faced a task you had to give up on and accept that you couldn’t do it?
Nope! Some details may come out different from the initial idea, and occasionally I seek inspiration from my many skilled colleagues if we stumbled upon a specifically tricky process. But I cannot recall a problem we haven’t solved.
Photographs by Maya Masuura ©