For my first Designer In Residency feature I recently interviewed my lovely friend Mitz Takahashi because a) he is an incredibly talented furniture designer and b) because I thought his answers would make me laugh. I was not let down.
You have a pretty notorious sense of humour which you work into some of your home accessories. Your furniture however is pretty sophisticated. Do you ever think of making furniture pieces that reflect that side of yourself?
Thank you. I have been thinking about it but I think its harder for bigger items since it could be gimmicky and it might be too much in your face since the products are bigger. I have to find a better way to incorporate it into bigger items. I was thinking about furniture series called, "lo-life" chairs, ottoman, couches, coffee tables, side tables, that are low to the ground which are seen lots in Japan, (there are lots of low seatings since Japanese people sit right on the ground often.) I just wanted to do photo shoot with lazy relaxed people sitting in chairs with a bag of chips, making a mess on the shirt, napping, etc. I'm not sure though.
What brought you from Japan to Calgary and then Calgary to Montreal?
There are two versions. One long version or short one. I'll try to keep it short. I always wanted to go overseas to study. I thought about going overseas after finishing high school in Japan but my parents and I talked and thought might be better to go little bit earlier since, you know, it's easier to learn another language or adapt to new environment when you are young and restless. So I packed my suitcase with clean underwear and grunge CDs and came to Canada. I actually went to high school in a small southern Alberta town called, Crowsnest Pass. It's 2.5 hrs southwest of Calgary, close to the BC border. It's a beautiful Rocky Mountain town. My mom knew a friends' sister who lived there. After high school there, I went to University of Lethbridge. I did a BFA in Multidisciplinary which touches everything in the fine arts department. I didn't even know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to do something creative or at least hands on work. I thank my parents for supporting me and letting me take what I wanted. After university, I came to Montreal in 2007. After I got my permanent residency status, I enrolled in cabinet-making course at RTC (Rosemount Technology Centre). So I sometimes wonder how did I get here. It's that same feeling I get when I was initially watching climate change documentary on youtube but after a couple of suggested videos, I end up watching epic clips of "hippos having explosive diarrhea" life finds a way indeed.
Are there any other woodworkers or designers in your family?
My uncle does woodworking. My dad did a lot of DIY stuff and had hobbies like train models, gliders, remote controlled cars, etc. He read a lot of books and was into weird sub-culture or trivia like a giraffe only sleeps 20 mins a day or licking a stamp is consuming 0.1 calories etc. My mom did a lot of ikebana, Japanese flower arrangement and other hobbies as well. My older brother is a computer engineer in Osaka and my younger brother is an architect in Tokyo. My family is the biggest inspiration. I realized what I do and what I want to do is to make my family proud. I want to create something that makes my family proud.
Your girlfriend Rachel Denkers is a talented fashion designer known for her intricate knit leather work. Wood and leather compliment each other so well. Have you two ever collaborated on either a fashion or furniture project?
Yes! in fact, we are designing chairs and bed frames together, right now. There are a lot of ideas we have that we want to make into reality. we are working on it ;)
Your work blends decorative Japanese woodworking techniques with very West Coast mid-century lines. Who is your number one 50s design inspiration and your biggest Japanese design hero?
50's Finn Juhl always comes to my mind. It's obvious but I can't skip Sori Yanagi, Noguchi Isamu, Riki Watanabe for Japanese MCM designers. Makio Hasuike, Nendo, Maruni, Truck, Masayuki Kurokawa..sorry pretty obvious popular big names. It's like asking musician what bands you like and I'm answering I like Beatles, Stones and Nirvana but you know there is a reason why it's popular i guess. Not product/furniture designers but I also like art by Marisol Escobar, and reading books a lot in Japanese (since its faster for me) I also spend a lot of time watching sports too. I like hanging out with friends, looking at pigeons eat bread crumbs, watching security guards act like they own the place, cooking, eating ice cream twice a day, early Jackie Chan movies, friends and families. it comes down to that and it's simple. I don't wanna sound cheesy and preaching but good furniture it seems to me is timeless and long lasting, passed on from parents to kids part of their daily lives. I try to keep it simple, that doesn't go out of style.
What's your favourite thing about your studio?
I love my studiomates. There are really really talented people in my studio from all over the mediums from art to journalists.
Kevin Ledo, Dave Todaro, Peter Ferguson, Lenny and LucaDaddy Mojo, Phil, the Main blog. , Ashley, Kai Takeshima, Dan and J.R is a computer engineer.(we joke that we all have no idea what he does, hahaha, great guy though).
Everyone is good, talented people and we have fun together. I tell them trivia like a giraffe only sleeps 20 mins a day or licking a stamp is consuming 0.1 calories etc.