Local Scratches

A Design Research Journey in Japan


Where does creativity finds its sources of inspiration?

This project is about my journey through Japan with the leading idea of finding traditional handcraft people, willing to share their stories with me. Its not about the product – or maybe, but it is a story about how handcraft influences mindset and personalities. I am looking for a balance between thinking and experiencing and a way to think with my hands.

Therefore I am traveling trough Japan since a few month, looking for craftsmen - and women to understand their process of creation. Its an experiment in itself, I don’t speak Japanese, most of the craftsmen don’t speak English – observation and empathy become more and more important. They have to show me what they mean, I have to try it in order to understand. We talk through hands. As well often I find translators for the interview part, where I am asking about the experience, the backgrounds and personal stories about inspiration, creativity and perfection. What does it mean to be a traditional craftsman in Japan today?

They know each other. I get connected through the people I have talked to. They are willing to help and to organize. The topic is the red threat of the travel and takes me to locations I probably would not go as a tourist. I went to Fukui to talk to carpenters and glass makers, in Kyoto I visited a kimono maker and in Kochi I talked to knife- and paper maker.

I spend 6 weeks at a traditional paper mill to make Japanese Washi. There I was able to experience the hole process of creating paper. From harvesting the raw material to draw the Washi by myself. I understood, that keeping a tradition is a lot of hard work. It has barely to do with a romantic picture of being a wise craftsmen. It is about routine and communication and being a part in a big social environment.

In general this is, what all craftsmen have in common, communication is a base of creativity. But later more about it.


This webpage shows portraits of some craftsmen I have talked to. It allows to get an impression of their process of making, but especially of their  personal story, thoughts and problems they are facing today. The page arose from the idea to show similarities amongst the process of the different craftships and their questions. It should create a line between their ways of problem solving.




Carolin Scheffler,

Design Research