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Episode 2

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.


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)

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.

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.


Episode 3: At an auction in Denmark, the agent forgot the instruction the buyer to “compete up to 10 times the expected bid price” and it heated up.


Life at Oda’s Residence — 織田邸の暮らし



Copyright © Oda Collection Organization


Life at Oda’s Residence


A collection of memories by Mr. Noritsugu Oda 12

Copyright © Oda Collection Organization