YOKU YAMAGUCHI: THE POWER OF WOOD
Wooden Furniture in Echizen, Fukui Prefecture
"I want to do, what other people don't try. I have the confident to ask: I wonder if I can do it or not."
Yoku Yamaguchi loves wood. Its not only, that wherever you look or touch something in his workshop it will be clearly made out of wood. It is more about the way he talks about this material.
We are closer to wood. I was closer to wood than to iron, thats why I quitt my job as an engineer.
Yamaguchi studied machine engineering and wanted to become a construction designer for machines.
I wanted to get a close relationship to my customers and to my material, but it wasn’t iron, it was wood.
in the age of 30, he went to school again. This time a school specialized in wood making before he started his own company Furnitureholic.
What is the story behind this name?
Furniture.. well I make furnitures. And holic is a short term for holistic. I am a Japanese carpenter and our thinking might be different from other countries. We believe that we should use the power of wood. For example the way nature created and formed the shape of a tree is already the most stronger shape wood can have. So why change it? We don’t fight with the structure and the original shape, we don’t fight nature.
The power of wood?
Yes, we use the power of wood, instead of the power of the bond. We know that wood moves, so we don’t try to stop it, we work with it. When cut the wood, or the work with the material, we always cut from the bottom to the top, the way the tree grew. When we make a bond without glue or screws, we add a bit water to one part right before we combine both parts, so that the wood can swell in the bond. That makes it stronger.
Although Yamaguchi claims he is not an engineer, nor a designer he invents constantly new products, more a new way of using known product. His works shows a lot of humor and comes usually with a small unexpected surprise for the user. He was thrilled to show me his new work: the Eichzien chest of drawers. Chests are very common in Japanese old houses, so he is using the design and created suitcases out of it to carry them around for different purposes. For example he made one with the every item you need for a traditional tea ceremony. When I was opening the last drawer of the business version, it made a loud sound. Yamaguchi laughed out loud – its a safety function, nobody can steal anything without everybodys notice.
What is the most important skill you need to have as a carpenter?
Communication! This is where I get my ideas from. I talk to my costumer and I’ll try to figure out, how their lifestyle look like and what would be the best thing – what would 100% fit to my costumer. Then I’ll start sketching, creating prototypes and I work till I have 120%.
You mean perfection or even more?
Yes. I always want to do the best thing in the world. But more I want to hear the »Wow« from my costumers. I need the feedback as my motivation for the next work.
This is were you get your inspiration from?
From understanding my costumers, yes. And also from taking to experts of other fields. They give me hints, new ideas and a change of perspective. But every idea is out there already, everything I get inspiration and new ides from is already there. But mostly drives me, when I want to do something out of wood, which is actually not possible to make it with that material. Of course I’ll try and fail. And try again.
Yoku, why are you creative?
I want to do, what other people don’t try. I have the confident to ask: I wonder if I can do it or not. And I want to surprise people.
Where does this confident come from?
As a child I always thought that the second base is the best position for me. But I got too many compliments for everything I did, so I learned to become a pioneer and to get even more compliments. Now I have a new company based on no tradition I could take over.