Several years ago, I happened to be in Tokyo during one of the biggest holidays in Japan: Shogatsu (New Year’s). Per tradition, I joined the masses in a pilgrimage to one of the most famous temples in Tokyo, along with close to a million people that day. The long and slow-moving path to the temple was lined on either side with chochins, better known as Japanese lanterns, creating a spectacular and festive procession with their characteristic glow, likely even better the evening before when they shone against the dark night sky.
Blown Fabric. Created by Nendo.
Chochins are are a part of Japanese history, tradition and culture, and they continue to be used throughout festivals and events today. Their popularity has extended across the globe such that you’ve likely encountered them or their non-authentic replicas, anywhere from city streets to American dorm rooms; thin strips of bamboo wrapped around a wooden frame and strengthened with vertical stitching with Japanese mulberry paper pasted over the frame. Japanese design firm Nendo has created a new lighting fixture “in the style of the vernacular Japanese chochin paper lanterns”; blown-fabric is a seamless one-piece design that takes advantage of new Japanese synthetic fiber technology. “‘Smash’ is a specialized long-fiber non-woven polyester that can be manipulated into different forms through hot press forming technology…it is thermoplastic, light and rip-proof, but glows beautifully when light passes through it,” similarly to the mulberry paper of traditional chochins.
The particular properties of the synthetic fiber technology, Smash, enabled it to be shaped like blown glass. According to the designers, “Heat is added and pressurized air blown into it,” a process incapable of being completely controlled and thereby creating entirely unique pieces. The designers intervene during the production to create a “collection of objects whose infinitely varied imperfections are reminiscent of the infinite formal mutations of viruses and bacteria in response to environmental changes.” The light source, which serves as the base of the light source, weighs down the very lightweight fabric form.
The pieces have a decidedly Japanese aesthetic, intentionally bringing to mind the vernacular Japanese lantern. The variety of forms creates an organic composition, “a far cry from the standardized forms of industrial mass-production,” while its luminiscent nature evokes a sense of lightness and spirituality. Nendo created this product for Tokyo Fiber ‘09 Senseware, an exhibition intended to convey the possibilities of new materials developed with Japanese synthetic fiber technology. The idea of reinterpreting a pre-existing object in a contemporary aesthetic can also be seen in Bollo, lamps designed by Leonardo Liberti and manufactured by Brion Experimental; though in the case of Bollo the original object was far more mundane.