Welcome to our ‘spiral market selection’ interview series, where we look at living from the viewpoint of artists and creators engaged in craftsmanship for daily life. For our fourth instalment, we talked to the creative pair at KOKU PRODUCTS who make a range of items for interior furnishing.
── Imagining a dream home
Often when artists work in teams, one is responsible for production and the other plays more of a support role. In our case, we work as a couple, but we create independently, and both of us assume a fair share of the administrative tasks as well. It’s not even a case of separating our work by timber and wood. Both of us engage with both those media. We have our individual styles and where they intersect, you find KOKU PRODUCTS.
We make a large variety of items from coat hangers to cutting boards and even furniture. And we use every item in our own household. It baffles some people why we would make coat hangers – to them it seems there is no consistency in what we create. But for us, we aim to totally equip a room — chairs, lighting, tables — and that’s the sentiment behind calling our products “interior furnishings”. We would love to build our own home but can’t just yet, so these are the products of our growing dream. The kinds of creations we would love to have when we build our own home.
── KOKU PRODUCTS style
KOKU PRODUCTS began with just timber and iron. Only recently have we started using brass, glass, leather and other materials. Obviously, this means working outside of our original style, but if we don’t allow for small departures we end up walking such a narrow path. There may be some conflict with our so-called ‘style’, but within that we pour our own aesthetic into everything we do, from choosing a type of leather to selecting a material, never losing our KOKU PRODUCTS style.
In some circles we are considered simply timber and iron craftmen even though we don’t limit ourselves to those two materials. We’ve tried to resist that categorization, even making timber-only reliefs and other similar works. However, it seems like we are the only ones who care about it, and even those works are appreciated by those who behold them. Our style is created completely of our own accord. We definitely think it’s cool to focus on one thing and perfect it, but for us, we are more driven by the spirit of challenging ourselves with something. Even if we know it might stray from our usual style, we want to try to give form to our ideas with the materials on hand, and see how it works out. We want to create things that people think are interesting to have around.
── Our aesthetic resides amid choices
If we have thirty to forty pieces of timber, we can narrow it down to a handful that we like. They’re similar, but they’re not the same. That’s the lens through which we see our materials and the sense driving our creations every day. Even with our own creations, we can see them subjectively and think, this is good, this is not. It’s impossible to explain, but we just know the instant we look at it. For example, one piece might be missing the necessary tension… It’s really strange but it’s possible to draw a line like that.
At first, it’s hard to figure out what the difference might be, but the reason always reveals itself after careful contemplation. If we can’t work it out intuitively, we consult each other. We sometimes even debate about two pieces. Often after they are finished, though, it is absolutely clear which was better after all. But as in any case when two people are working together, you can’t always find agreement. So, only the pieces that we can agree on become KOKU PRODUCTS. Occasionally that gets a bit tiresome, and we both create something totally outside the box.
── Change brought about by different time and space
We sometimes select a material based on appreciation for its present beauty, and other times with a vision for how the material will change over the years, like with a cutting board or a drip coffee stand. Each material undergoes change differently – some timbers grow darker while others grow lighter with time. Our own KOKU PRODUCTS pieces age in the rather grubby space of our atelier. In contrast, our customers typically use our products in their homes, so they experience change in a clean environment. We are often surprised by the different hues our products take on when they have been used carefully.
(Husband) I did a year of exchange in Germany as a university student. I often visited flea markets and saw so many coat hangers – some beaten up, some shiny. I came to like them and realised that as long as they don’t break, they last forever. There are certain objects such as these that we touch throughout our lives. I was drawn to those kinds of things and started making them myself.
(Wife) I also like German tools and implements and especially admire the German sentiment that if something breaks you fix it and use it again. We bring KOKU PRODUCTS to a point of initial completion, but after that we believe they are remade through time spent with the people who use them. Just like a coffee drip stand that is gradually stained by coffee – the coffee drips and splashes in different ways depending on the pourer. Seeing how those changes differ by user is a lot of fun for us. We love that aspect.
Interview and editing by Spiral