Toko Bed keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter utilizing the characteristics of paulownia tree. The bed is designed to promote comfortable sleep with THERMOWOOL stuffed inside the floorboard made purely of paulownia which enhances the heat insulation performance and promotes the moisture buffering effect of paulownia tree, keeping the bed surface dry and pleasant to feel. Paulownia has a strong insect-repelling and moisture-proof effect, keeping mites and mold away to ensure a comfortable environment for good sleep. Since we build the bed using mortise and tenon joint design without any nails, it can last more than 100 years.
- Question 1Please describe your company and what makes your furniture special.
- Mr. Hieda
- It is vital for us to build our furniture by hand, keeping the use of machines to a minimum. When we use machines, the work is done quicker, but the finish is inevitably coarser. Also, the motto of Kiri Kobo is “one person makes one product” meaning that one artisan makes one piece of furniture by hand responsibly from the start to the finish. The advantage of paulownia furniture is the ability to “recover” whereby an old product can be reborn as new by washing or scaling it. Conversely, paulownia has the weakness of being easily damaged and soiled, so we build and renew the furniture with a full understanding of the material’s characteristics. Being the tree of Okawa City, we not only know paulownia well but also cherish it when we make furniture from it.
- Question 2What was your honest thought when first asked to make “Cat Furniture”?
- Mr. Hieda
- A few years ago, a customer who purchased our paulownia furniture told us that his cat is relaxing on it, and I began to think cats and paulownia may be a good match. I think it is an intriguing idea to miniaturize human furniture to demonstrate our skills, even if it is not for cats. Usually when we make smaller furniture, the building process is simplified as if making a scale model, but the making of cat furniture goes through the same process as full-scale furniture. I have affection for our finished product because we made the full effort required. I am happy that I made it.
- Question 3What are you committed to when making cat furniture?
- Mr. Hieda
- In our workshop, “one person makes one product,” so one young artisan completed the production of cat furniture on his own, while I gave him detailed instructions as a “takumi* (master artisan).” The Toko bed is designed for the curves of furniture to be smoothly connected with one another, so we discussed how to adjust the curving condition to make the furniture look smooth even when it is seen from all directions. The mortises and tenons were securely jointed, and the building process was almost the same as or even a little more time-consuming than human furniture. I think it was difficult for the artisan to make small parts since our tools are for making human furniture, but our crafting skills are refined by experiencing difficult jobs. In the workshop of Kiri Kobo, first-year builders work in the same workplace with experienced artisans, so that they can observe the skills of their seniors directly and learn how to use tools and develop their own ways. They acquire expertise in the hands-on handcrafting workshop.
*Takumi of Okawa: award program of Okawa City to certify and praise experts having outstanding skills and expertise.
Among a large number of artisans in Okawa City, only 8 have been certified.
- Question 4What is your view of the future?
- Mr. Hieda
- I want to cultivate more and more artisans. Kiri Kobo is like a “craftsmen training hall” so they don’t need to succeed the workshop, and in this way we can train the professionals in Okawa. For this reason, we disclose all our skills as we educate them. I think the City of Okawa needs to consider how to develop experts with the goal of becoming an attractive city called “Okawa, the town of artisans.”
74-3 Oaza Enokizu, Okawa City, Fukuoka Prefecture