Category

Interview

  • Since I visited Mr. Wegner’s atelier in 1984, we had been in contact for 20 years. One day, out of nowhere, this chair was sent to me.

    Hans J. Wegner
    Hoop Chair, 1986
    A good example of how advances in science and technology make new designs possible. PP Møbler’s second generation Søren Pedersen devised a machine to make the round frame, which was originally designed with metal pipes, by molding wood, and realized the current structure. It features a radial rope work, and the rope used for the yacht is stopped with small metal fittings. An idea for not making a knot considering the comfort on the back.

     

    The letter says “For research”.
    Mr. Wegner knew I didn’t have this chair.

    The Hoop Chair was sent to my apartment one day out of nowhere in Minoo, Osaka. It was in 1987, soon after it was commercialized in 1986. It had a letter inside from Mr. Wegner saying, “I will give this as a gift for research.” Mr. Wegner spares no effort in helping to promote research and design, and has donated all the exhibits of the Wegner Museum in his hometown of Tønder. When I received the Hoop Chair, I was reminded of how he recognized me as a researcher.

    I first met Mr. Wegner three years earlier, in 1984, when I visited his atelier in Denmark. As I always talk about in lectures and interviews, in 1980 I established a private chair laboratory called “CHAIRS” launching. The group’s members, Ms. Kinuko Senoo of Kyoto City University of Arts, and Mr. Yoshio Hayashi, a photographer, decided to go to Denmark for research, and the first research trip was realized. The very first places we visited were Mr. Wegner and Mr. Finn Juhl. I forgot which place was first, but it was a very extravagant plan to visit these two in the morning and afternoon on the same day.

     

    I had so many questions to ask,
    I couldn’t sleep well the night before.

    At that time, requests for interviews were by letter. I expected that it would be difficult to have an interview, but I looked up in the dictionary with Ms. Senoo to write the letter, but Mr. Wegner immediately agreed to our request. It may be that we were able to convey his enthusiasm to visit for research purposes, not just for magazine coverage. On that day, we brought a “CHAIRS card”, which is part of our research activities, which is like a family register of chairs, and brought documents of about 700 Danish chairs. Mr. Wegner saw it and seemed to understand our intentions. His house was semi-basement on the mountain side, and the entire lower floor was his atelier, with a workshop, design room, and library, but he showed me everything except the bedroom. The family room on the upper floor was a room that was usually closed to visitors, and I think we were the first Japanese to go in there.

    At this time, Mr. Hayashi, a photographer gave Mr. Wegner his four-direction photographs (4 times 5 size reversal film) of his work. He was very pleased and said, “I’ve never taken any pictures by myself before.” Later, as a thank you, we received 30 full-scale whiteprint drawing of chairs. Since this interview, I have been in contact with Mr. Wegner for more than 20 years, and have met in person eight times in total. I remember when I visited again the following year. That time, I took a file with a list of about 400 chairs out of about 500 by Wegner’s work that I drew by hand. There are blanks here and there. In Japan, I couldn’t figure it out no matter how hard I looked it up, so I showed it to Mr. Wegner and asked him, “I want you to fill in these parts.” Then he replied, “That’s your job. Do it yourself because it will be research.” When I think about it later, I imagine that this was also a word of encouragement to us.

     

    Wherever we go,
    “CHAIRS card” completely changed the attitude of people.

    The purpose of this trip to Denmark was to visit and collect information on author, manufacturers, and to visit trade fairs. However, even if you ask for an interview at a manufacturer or at a trade fair, they won’t let us and they said “Japanese people imitate everything.” Each time we present a box of “CHAIRS card”. As soon as they saw it, their attitude changed and they cooperated with the interview, and the same situation repeated the scene many times.

    For example, Herning’s national trade fair. At the entrance, I was warned that “photos are not allowed”. I bought a baby chair for research at the venue, and then entered the Møbel-Gruppen, an exhibition of young furniture designers held at the same venue. The cold attitude was the same there, but when I took out the box and showed “CHAIRS card” to them and explained that we came from Japan to fill in the empty items, his expression suddenly softened and he was very helpful. Gorm Harkaer, who became friends there, later published a book as a researcher of Kaare Klint, the father of Danish design. I kept in touch with Eric Coe even after returning to Japan. He later became the principal of the National Danish Design School.

     

    I can’t believe it now
    witnessing the crisis situation in Denmark.

    The reason I chose Denmark as my first destination was not for positive reasons. I thought, “If I don’t go now, I won’t make it in time.” At this time, Denmark’s main industry, the furniture manufacturing industry, was in decline, and the craftsmen were aging and factories were closing down one after another. The causes were the depletion of resources, the lack of manpower and the decline in competitiveness due to negligence in human resource development, and the old-fashioned manufacturing that does not incorporate the trends of the times. And with the rise of Italian modernism, Scandinavia was no longer looked at. The end of the Scandinavian boom that swept the world from 1945 to the late 1960s. In such a case, valuable chairs and materials will inevitably be lost. I had to hurry, because the material of wood can become useless if left alone.

    Prior to the Danish coverage, when I interviewed people who are very knowledgeable about Denmark, they said, “Even if you go to Northern Europe now, there’s nothing” and “What are you going to do with researching something covered in dust?”. However, when we actually went there, we found a lot of valuable things left behind, and in conclusion, this trip was extremely rewarding for us, who embarked on the path of researchers. On the contrary, it can be said that it was easy to obtain masterpiece chairs and materials because it was such a situation.

    After that, I went to Denmark many times. Denmark’s largest bookstore, “Arnold Busck”, which I became a regular customer of, has a branch with a good selection of antique books and I borrowed a chair and spent an hour or two picking out books. Even with a vague degree of understanding while looing up a dictionary, I knew the importance of it. You could find a lot of things that you could never get in Japan. A pile of books was forming next to me (laugh). The exhibition catalog I bought there was on display at the exhibition “Finn Juhl and the Danish Chair” held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum from the summer of 2022. That’s how easy something so rare was available to get back then. There are about 250 back numbers of the interior magazine “Mobilia” on two and a half shelves, and the architectural magazine “Architecten” published in the 1800s is a combined annual book that has everything up to the 1930s. Among them, the “Denmark Design Museum” is posted in comparison with what it looked like when it was once a hospital. It’s really precious.

     

    What I learned from the factory tour.
    It is the discarded parts and the “…” of the master.

    When it comes to crisis situations, the two companies I signed up to visit were no exception. Johannes Hansen had only two skilled workers, and Carl Hansen had only two Y-chair paper cord weavers and only one assembler. At the factory of PP Møbler, the successor to Johannes Hansen, defective parts were thrown away. When I asked why, they said, “We can’t use it because it has knots,” and “It got wrinkles from super bending (molding).” As I got it as a document, one suitcase was full and I was stopped at the airport saying “over weight!”. I remember asking the other members to stuff it little by little into their suitcases and managed to come back. It’s still a pity that I didn’t get the parts for the “Valet Chair” that I found at that time (laugh).

    I once visited PP Møbler with Mr. Wegner. The president, Aina Pedersen, was still doing well. I found a work by Poul Kjærholm there and asked Mr. Wegner what he thought. Mr. Wegner said, “He was an excellent designer.” When I asked him who he respected as a designer, he simply replied, “Charles Eames.” Then Aina poked me with his elbow. Then, in a low voice, he said, “Don’t ask too much about other designers.” Aina seemed nervous because I asked him anything without knowing it.

     

    Left: In the spring of 2016, Mr. Oda visits PP Møbler on a training trip for the Association of Small Business Entrepreneurs. / Right: A poster with Mr. Oda’s illustration in the material room of PP Møbler.

     

    The reason for the discontinuation that he could not tell me,
    I found out after I got home.

    At that time, something like this also happened. When I asked him what was wrong with a certain Mr. Wegner’s design chair that have been discontinued but Mr. Wegner would not answer. And Aina quietly said to me, “You shouldn’t ask.” When I went to PP Møbler again the following year, I asked if I could buy the discontinued product. When I told Aina about “some incident” in Japan as the reason I wanted to buy it, he said, “Is that what happened? Then, wait a minute.” He went to the back of the factory and 10 minutes later, he came back and said, “I found it!”. Then he said, “I will assemble it and send it for research.”

    “The certain incident” was long before that in Japan. When I went to a gallery in Osaka, I found the “Stacking Chair PP-55” on display and wanted to buy it. Unfortunately, I was told, “If Mr. Oda wants it, it must be a valuable item, so I won’t sell it” (laugh). In the end, the chair that I couldn’t buy was the aforementioned discontinued product, and Aina, who heard about it, helped me. Later as promised, Aina sent me assembled chair. As I watched Mr. Yoshio Hayashi photograph the chair, I was startled. I know why it was discontinued. The “PP-55” is made of bent plywood for the “joinery” under the seat and it stretches so legs get distorted. However, this is just my guess, and I could never confirm it with Mr. Wegner nor Aina.

     

    PP-55

     

    September 27th, 2022 Centpure (Higashikawa)
    Interviewer: Kano Nishikawa

     


     

    [ After the interview ]

    Some years ago, I traveled to Finland, Sweden, and Denmark with Mr. Oda for the overseas training of the Association of Small-and Medium-Size enterprises. At that time, I visited the museum shops and bookstores with Mr. Oda and the way he picks up books and buys all those books made me feel so pleasant. Mr. Oda who buys many thick books without any hesitation even thought he is traveling and carries a rucksack that hangs down heavily. But after listening to the story this time, I understood that it was a very normal behavior for him (laughs). (Nishikawa)

    Mr. Oda who picks up more and more books.
    Left: In Odense, Denmark, no matter where you go, Mr. Oda who is kind to birds, the bread in your pocket to the ducks. / Right: Purchased sterling silver cutlery designed by Henning Koppel at the Georg Jensen flagship store in Copenhagen.

    Copywriter Kano Nishikawa
    After working at a design office in Tokyo and Sapporo, I started working as a freelancer in Asahikawa in 2001. Until now, I have been involved in the production of advertisements for local companies and organizations, including Asahikawa Furniture. I have known Mr. Oda for about 30 years through my work.

  • The very first chair in Oda Collection. This is where my “act of studying chairs under adversity” starts.

    Le Corbusier + Pierre Jeannert + Charlotte Perriand
    LC-4 Chaise Longue B-306 (1928)
    The seat is mounted on a steel frame, and the rubber wrapped around the pipe supports the arc frame, allowing the seat angle to be changed smoothly. In addition to the current model, there is also a type with a welded pipe tip, both of which are in Oda Collection. A bamboo version designed by Perriand was introduced at Cassina a few years ago.

     

    When I was newly married, I paid 10 times for salary deduction.
    And when I finish paying, the second chair arrives.

    I bought this chair in 1972 when I was 25 and working in the advertising department of Takashimaya. I just got married and lived in a 2DK apartment. I got a 10% discount on this 300,000 yen chair sold at Takashimaya, and I used the “Tenchaku” from the employee discount which gives you additional 10% off. Moreover, it was possible to deduct salary in 10 installments. Even so, my salary was 40,000 yen and my rent was around 20,000 yen, so it was a big purchasing.

    The LC-4 is the one I longed for in those days when owning a masterpiece chair was considered a status. There are many foreign interior magazines in the advertising department, and masterpiece chairs were listed as “status chairs” in Germany’s “SCHÖNER WOHNEN” and Italy’s INTERNI”. A chair is a support tool for the body, and at the same time it is a symbol of status. The head of an organization is called the “Chairman”. Wanting a good chair seems to be a manifestation of deep psychology. I’m not good at organization and I want to be free, so I don’t want to raise my status at all.

    The department store buys furniture from overseas in order to hold overseas exhibitions. If it remains unsold, it goes on a bargain sale. Looking back on it now, the LC-4 was the first step toward aunt lion (laugh). It wasn’t even a year before I bought my second Pernilla (Bruno Mathsson).

    When I was 27, my daughter was born, and when I was 30, my son was born. The LC-4 was covered with horse fur, so children used it as a slide to play on. One time, I received a bonus of 300,000 yen. At that time, it was cash payment, so I go home and give my wife an envelope. There were only 30,000 yen in the envelope. I had a big fight with my wife. It’s because I shop life this, but that’s why I worked outside the company until midnight every day to make money. But that wasn’t enough.

     

    My seat in the Takashimaya advertising department. Taking advantage of the fact that the newcomer was on the aisle side, I drew illustrations, and my illustrations caught the eye of other teams and I got the chance to draw the Aramaki salmon for the main visual of the Hokkaido Products Exhibition.

     

    I should stop buying chairs.
    I thought that too.

    When there were 7 or 8 chairs, I was satisfied with just using them myself. However, I bought a lot of interior-related books, so the room became too small, so I decided to move to a 2LDK one floor below the same apartment. But the number of chairs continued to increase, and when I reached 20-30, I purchased a 4DK apartment. Still, I had trouble finding a place to put the chair, and I had to ask my colleague to put it in their house. It’s also tough financially, and I’m always running out of money because I’m busy paying for chairs. Around this time, there was an incident that made me want to stop buying chairs. One day my kindergarten daughter had a fever. Even though I wanted to take her to the hospital, I only had about 100 yen in my wallet. I had a woman doctor who lived upstairs in the same apartment building make a house call, and it went all right. But when my daughter got well, I wanted the chair again.

    I don’t know how many people have said to me, “I’m glad your wife stayed with you.” However, even in this kind of life, I buy almost everything my wife wants. I’ve been working hard and earning a decent income, and tried to atone for my wife’s troubles. Of course, the atonement continues even now (laugh).

     

    This ascot shirt is from TORAYA, a men’s clothing store located in Osaka Minami Shopping Street. After that, I had a long relationship, such as having my shirt repaired until the sleeves and collar were worn out.

     

    Department store work and freelance, illustration and chair.
    I’m always engaged in two trades at the same time.

    When I joined Takashimaya, I asked the company, “I want myself to be a part-time employee, not a full-time employee.” I wanted to avoid on-size-fits-all work, and I wanted to work outside the company to earn extra income. For example, as a regular job, I drew illustrations for a monthly economic magazine called “All Life”. The illustration in the article is 1,500 yen per point. I forgot about the cover fee, but for this job I used acrylic paint Liquitex for the first time. With the theme of “wrapping”, I drew a teapot, a sake barrel, and a red sea bream grilled in salt. I was looking forward to the monthly payment. I did not have an airbrush yet, so I drew all of them with a single brush, and I was happy that four of them were published in the yearbook of the “Society of Illustrators” (New York), which I admired when I was in college. Including these days, I seem to be a person who lives with “engaged in two trades at the same time”. Even after I opened my own illustration office, and even after becoming a professor at Tokai University, I have been doing research on chairs, so I was engaged in two trades at the same time.

     

    At the Takashimaya baseball tournament. At that time, I weighed 48kg (laugh).

     

    While being chased by the payment of dozens of chairs,
    my life was healed by fishing and mountain climbing.

    In the 4DK apartment I bought, I raised about 700 fish. I collected sweet fish from Lake Biwa and put them in 12 tanks, ranging from large ones with a width of 180 cm to ones weighing 1 ton and small ones with a width of 60 cm. Oh yes, once when I cast a net to catch fish in the Yodo River, it got caught on the bottom of the river and I dived out. It was early April and it was night (laugh). A water change was a big job. You have to put tap water in after descaling. I went to a nearby pond with my children to scoop up small fish to feed the big fish and kept them in a separate tank. Eels and mozuku crabs escaped and went missing, and later the eels were mummified and the crabs came out of the fridge motor compartment covered in dust. It’s hard work, but for me who is busy with work, this was really comfortable time.

    Speaking of comforting, there is another thing to do, mountain climbing. Of the 15 days off a year, including the New Year holidays, I took a five-day holiday once a year and traversed the Northern Alps. For that reason, I work without day off for several months, and about two weeks before climbing, I carried my child on my back and go back and forth up the stairs of the apartment to the 10th floor many times to get used to it. In those days, the roads and environment weren’t as good as they are now, so there were times when I got lost in heavy fog, I hurt my knee and dragged my feet down on the way from Mt. Tsurugi to Kurobe River and I finally reached my destination while lighting a match in a curved tunnel with no exit in sight.

     

    The ever-increasing number of chairs fills my heart, but at the same time, my home becomes cramped.

     

    My interest in chairs was influenced by my father.
    I have been a fish lover since childhood in my hometown of Kochi.

    I talked about diving in the river the above. I was born in a small town along the Niyodo River, which became a hot topic in the NHK special “Niyodo Blue” in Kochi, and I grew up surrounded by nature. I would dive into the river to catch sweet fish and eels, and sometimes I would give them to my mother who was running an inn, and received pocket money. My father was an official of the Imperial Household Agency, and later returned to his hometown to work at the government office, as a hospital manager, and as a Shinto priest. He liked furniture, and he always looked forward to coming to Osaka to see the furniture because there was nothing good in the countryside. When I was a university student (Osaka University of Arts), we used to look at furniture together at Yukawa Europe Land, the predecessor of Actus. A bargain chair by George Nakashima or Aalto was about 30,000 yen. It was an era when the remittance was 10,000 yen a month. So, my apartment didn’t look like a college student, with two Hidasangyo armchairs, a coffee table, a rocking chair, and a study desk and chair that my father ordered when I was in 3rd grade.

     

    2002/9/1 At CentPure (Higashikawa)
    Interviewer: Kano Nishikawa

     


     

    [ After the interview ]

    I’ve always thought, “I’d like to listen to some interesting episodes that come out while Mr. Oda explains the chairs.” When I met him this summer, I told him about it, and when I said to him, “Do you have the top 5 chairs that you had a hard time getting?” Soon after, Mr. Oda himself proposed to the Oda Collection Organization, which led to the realization of this series. The 1st time is definitely the LC-4, the first of over 1,400 chairs. I feel like I saw the magic of the Oda Collection (laugh) in the “how to buy” this chair and the “how to earn” that makes it possible. Even so, his love for beautiful things runs deep. From the next time, I would like him to show us a deeper story. (Nishikawa)

    Copywriter Kano Nishikawa
    After working at a design office in Tokyo and Sapporo, I started working as a freelancer in Asahikawa in 2001. Until now, I have been involved in the production of advertisements for local companies and organizations, including Asahikawa Furniture. I have known Mr. Oda for about 30 years through my work.