Takae at work in her studio. It looks such a relaxing space
Dining table looking a bit boring? Need to add some fun to your morning routine? If so, this interview is the place to be! Takae Mizutani designs magical tableware that transforms egg and soldiers into a castle and horse; milk & sugar into a lion & a unicorn, and salt & pepper shakers into boats. In the last of my series on the fabulous Designers/Makers, designer Takae talks about how the everyday inspires her quirky ceramic & illustration work, and the importance of creating equality for toast soldiers.
Egg & Soldiers: where it all began // Breakfast set // £24.50
Please can you introduce yourself and your work?
Hello, I’m Takae, I am from a small seaside town in Japan and am currently living in north London with two black cats and a lovely husband. I design ceramic tablewares and illustrate. As a foreigner in this country, I find fascination over cultural difference and language understanding / misunderstanding. The product concept or illustration ideas often comes from these fascinating areas of my mundane everyday life.
Many of my current products were born out of my fascinations over British culture and habit. I never heard about “Egg & soldier” before until my ex-British flat mate introduced me to this simple boiled egg and toast dish one afternoon in 1999. I thought soldiers, what soldiers…what do you mean, the thinly sliced pieces of toast? But, they lay on the plate, and they didn’t even look like soldiers ready for battle to me… but as a polite Japanese person I smiled and nodded and said nothing. This incident wedged into my brain, and one day in 2006, I decided to design something for the soldiers. Eggs have been comfortably seated in egg cups for hundreds of years. It’s an equal right for toast soldiers too.
Let a sloth fall asleep whilst you relax with a cuppa // Sloth tea helper // £44
Is there anything particular from your most recent visit to Japan which may influence your next project?
I normally go back to Japan once a year to visit my family and friends. This time however, two of my English friends and my husband were visiting with me. This was the first time visiting Japan for the two friends, and it was inspiring to experience the excitement thorough their eyes, and rediscovering the beauties in ordinary commodities or customs of Japan.
I have been living in the UK for 16 years, and all the excitement of being in one of the most exciting cities in the world starts wearing off after all these years. In a way, the visit to Japan this time reminded me that nothing is ordinary or boring, it’s how you see them 🙂
Tea rules the world (fact) // Lion sugar bowl & unicorn creamer // £42.50
Can you talk me through a typical day?
My day starts with drinking a good cup of coffee (this is a must). Check all e-mail accounts for general enquiries, orders etc. in the morning. If there are any orders, then I most likely pack the orders and go to the post office. If it’s a bigger order (wholesale), then I prepare everything and wait for the parcel collection by a courier company. In the afternoon, I work on projects (designing/illustrating). Social networking if I have something to say such as up and coming events etc. Also quite often I will read about other designer makers/ artists/shops and galleries thorough the social media websites.
In between them I do some house chores, drinking more coffee, looking at garden birds and cuddling my cats….I procrastinate over my paper work – I look at the heap of paper work daily and think I should start doing something about it, and that never happens…until the heap collapses behind me.
Sweet Home Snail Plant Pot & Saucer set // £24.50
Do you hand-make your creations? What do you like about working with ceramics in particular?
I am a designer and illustrator, but I am currently not a maker. I love making things though… I trained as a furniture designer at University, and I love being in the workshop environment, but I am not a professional ceramist.
When I create a new product I usually make mock-ups or models by clay and draw technical drawings on CAD, and hand them to somebody who can create the prototype and the mould for me. Then I ship them to a small ceramic manufacturer in UK to create the samples. After the long process of final detail adjustments, all of my products are produced by highly skilled craft people in the UK (Stoke-On-Trent and Cornwall). I appreciate working with materials such as Cornish clay and bone china. I feel the historical memory and craftsmen’s pride when I touch them. I also love the fact the material has both fragility and strength.
Memories of Falmouth // Salt & pepper shakers // £39.75
Where do you look for inspiration? Are there any particular blogs/magazines or other designer-makers you regularly visit for inspiration?
I’m easily entertained by all sort of things…Quite often the inspiration comes from small conversations with somebody or an over heard conversation on the bus. Dialogues on films, sentences in books…Also it comes from daily scenery such as fallen leaves on the pavement, cats missing posters etc.
What does the future hold for Takae Mizutani?
I love working with conceptual design products… and I will not stop creating something to entertain myself in my own time. It is a pleasure if somebody else finds them interesting too.
Illustration is something I would like to work harder at in this moment of my life. I am currently working on a children’s book project and hopefully I can work towards publishing my book sometime in the future. Watch the space 😉
Soooooo…..since this interview was undertaken, Takae’s pieces are actually no longer stocked on Designers/Makers. BUT! Don’t let that stop you – her work is sold online in her shop, as well as plenty of other places (check out her Stockists page). I can’t wait to see what she designs next! Cheese is always high on my list – maybe a mouse inspired cheese board & knife set please?
For the rest of the Designers/Makers series, check out interviews here, here & here. ‘Who are Designers/Makers?!’ I hear you cry. I shall answer: An agency dedicated to supporting designer-makers, giving them an online space and regular markets to sell their wares, all whilst offering much-needed business advice. Sounds good, eh? As well as the four beauties I have interviewed, they have plenty more designers on board – check their site out here.