Born at SaloneSatellite
29 October 2018
Nao Tamura (1976) has taken an extremely personal approach to combining memory and innovation, harnessing both the analogue and the digital world. Her pieces are inspired by vision and material and strive to make an emotional connection through beauty. This they do.
The Seasons installation in your booth at SaloneSatellite in 2010 was a great success! A simple serving dish (still in production) was transformed thanks to a new material, silicone, technology and – first and foremost – your particularly ability to combine innovation and beauty. What’s your take on this approach to work?
I majored in communication design at college. After graduation I worked for a design studio in NYC where I was involved with easy to use products for people with arthritis. One such example is a peeler with an innovative rubber grip with flexible rubber fins on both sides of the base of the handle, along with a hole in the end of the handle for hanging up the peeler.
Products like this may appear rather low key at first glance, but once you use them you realise just how dramatically their design improves their ease of use and makes people’s lives easier.
So this is the basis of my design process. My design approach always stems from people’s real needs, and technology and innovation help to visualise the concept. Naturally, good looks also come into it. People want a product that works well and looks beautiful.
The inner inspiration for many of your objects derives from traditional Japanese culture, revealing your roots. Japan is your home country. How important is the soul of the object to you?
Many of my projects are inspired by nature, rather than Japanese culture.
However, I believe there is a strong connection between Japanese culture and nature.
I have become more conscious of nature since I left Japan.
Nature is abundant and is a major consideration in Japan. We live in constant fear of natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The idea of appreciating each season and enjoying nature’s bounty has entered into our culinary culture. Perhaps becoming keenly aware of the importance of nature after leaving Japan has gradually become manifest in my design.
You use a lot of different materials to develop your projects. Which move you more than others?
I like working with glass.
Working with glass means that I need to be a good listener.
Glass is a live material and has its own way of being and if I force it to do certain things that glass cannot do, it doesn't work. It’s rather like having a difficult relationship. If you let the material behave naturally, however, it reveals its beauty.
Is technology a “medium” or a material?
Why did you choose New York as the city where you wanted to live?
In a few words, New York is a place where I can be myself.
Design takes up a considerable part of my life. When I was in Japan, I literally spent all day thinking about design. That was fun at the time but I didn’t like the fact that I didn’t have a choice. I could either devote my life to being a designer or become a housewife (?!).
Besides, design by someone who’s constantly immersed in design can look rather fantastical and disconnected from reality. Some people may think that design that does away with the sense of domestic living is cool, but I want to cherish the perspective that can only be revealed through day-to-day living. New York is the city that gave me that.