Designer DIY and woodworking expertise come together in Ishinomaki Laboratory by Karimoku

The new brand offers updated versions of classic Ishinomaki Laboratory pieces produced by furniture manufacturer Karimoku’s master craftsmen

Image by Ooki Jingu

Image by Ooki Jingu

It was eight years ago that Ishinomaki Laboratory first sprang to life from the debris of Japan’s 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

The project — which aimed to empower locals to rebuild their lives, quite literally, through the power of DIY — was fuelled by the visionary direction of Tokyo designer Keiji Ashizawa. It led to the creation of a string of simple, clean-lined (and now classic) wooden furniture pieces, from benches to shelves, many designed by top Japanese creatives (Drill Design and TORAFU ARCHITECTS among them), produced in their workshop in Ishinomaki, northern Japan, and sold around the world.

Now, the DIY furniture label is about to begin its next chapter with the launch of new brand Ishinomaki Laboratory by Karimoku, a collaboration with Japan’s largest wooden furniture manufacturer.

The partnership will see Karimoku re-releasing items previously produced and sold by Ishinomaki Laboratory, the pieces now manufactured by top wood craftsmen at their factory in Aichi Prefecture.

The first range launches in early August 2019, with a pop-up furniture installation and photography exhibition at the Harajuku venue dotcom space Tokyo. The debut collection includes five pieces — among them the ISHINOMAKI STOOL, iconic in its simplicity, and KOBO TABLE, both designed by Ashizawa; plus the AA STOOL, another Ishinomaki Laboratory classic, by TORAFU ARCHITECTS. The official launch follows a successful exhibition of initial Ishinomaki Laboratory by Karimoku prototypes at design fair IFFT Interior Lifestyle Living in Tokyo late last year.

The collaboration marries contemporary Japanese design innovations with established woodworking expertise. Since its launch in 1940, Karimoku has become a leader in Japan’s wooden furniture industry, combining in-depth technical skills with a deep-rooted knowledge of domestic woods.

Many of the products will be produced in Japanese white oak from northern regions including Hokkaido and Tohoku — the area hit hardest by the 2011 disaster. The products will also be available in a range of other woods such as cherry, walnut and wormy maple.

As Ashizawa, the founder of Ishinomaki Laboratory, explains: ‘While the original Ishinomaki Laboratory designs were born out of constraints imposed by a post-disaster reality, the innovative way of bringing together DIY and design that emerged has led to products that can be reimagined in a variety of ways, such as through this new brand with Karimoku.’

Text / Danielle Demetriou 
Images / Masaki Ogawa and Ooki Jingu

Image by Ooki Jingu

Image by Ooki Jingu

Image by Ooki Jingu

Image by Ooki Jingu

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa

Image by Masaki Ogawa