Ishinomaki Lab: Pushing the horizons of DIY

Starting for the community – The Story.

Ishinomaki Lab: The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake really took a toll on Ishinomaki. In a coastal town, the ensuing tsunami devastated a way of life that had been taken for granted up until that point. When our founder Keiji Ashizawa came to Ishinomaki to see how he might be able to help in the initial recovery, he saw a need for people to be equipped to repair their own homes, and make whatever furniture they needed – essentially, DIY skills.

Ishinomaki Laboratory, therefore, started more as a small, public workshop for the community. Design-centered DIY workshops were also led to empower the community and share the joy and utility of making. Some of the earliest products – the ISHINOMAKI STOOL and ISHINOMAKI BENCH – were products of those workshops, addressing direct needs in the city center and temporary housing facilities.

Ishinomaki Lab: Incorporating designers from around the world, the Ishinomaki Laboratory furniture brand was eventually created in order to share well-designed, well-crafted products that continue to embody the brand’s original narrative in their simplicity, elegance, and functionality. Now, we retail around the world and have also partnered with furniture brands in London (SCP Ltd.) and Manila (Lamana) for our Made in Local initiative, in which our designs are produced using locally-available materials and the skill of local craftsmen, carrying our story even further.

DIY: creation through minimal materials.

Ishinomaki Lab: Our project is a furniture brand that pushes the horizons of DIY through the power of design. While our products may not necessarily be as raw as they were in the initial days, they still retain a DIY aspect that encourages users to engage with the product, discern how it might have been made, and be inspired by the possibilities of creatively utilizing minimal materials. We still primarily use Western Red Cedar (a wood species that was donated to us at the very beginning of our inception) for its durability, weather-resistibility, and lovely wood grain. In recent years we have started to utilize L-angle steel and linoleum, further pushing what DIY, “handmade” craftsmanship can accomplish in our small workshop.

Pushing the horizons of DIY.

Ishinomaki Lab: DIY is empowerment in that the willingness to engage with it and to use it in everyday circumstances leads to a skill set that can be incredibly useful. We often say that we are pushing the horizons of DIY through the power of design; at the same time, we are also pushing the horizons of design through the power of DIY. With both in hand, one can be empowered to solve problems, address needs, or just make something for the simple fun of it.

Interview with Rebekah Cheng from Ishinomaki Laboratory.

Photography:© Yosuke Owashi.