--Please tell us the details of how you started ALLOY in Kuramae.
(Yuto Yamazaki, designer of ALLOY) I am originally from Chichibu City in Saitama Prefecture. After studying at an interior design school, I worked for about 10 years at a local metal-related manufacturer and design office. After this, I studied abroad in Italy and at the same time worked as a design assistant. After I returned to Japan, I chose this area after starting my own company, ALLOY.
"ALLOY" refers to the combination of metals in English. The word also reflects my background of having worked at a metal-related manufacturer and my motivation to "combine and mix various components to create a single unified object". This workshop-cum-studio serves as a sales space for products designed by my company, as well as a little workspace for conducting design work and applying finishing touches.
When I established my company in Kuramae six years ago, I didn't know a single person. I must admit that I had a lot of courage to choose this place as my base (laughs). Now I both live and work in Kuramae, and I spend my days in this very small area. Over the past six years, I feel that the once quiet neighborhood has quickly become a bustling place and different sides of it has emerged.
--You work on product design using various different materials. Are there any things you bear in mind while designing?
My gateway into manufacturing was through fashion design, so I like materials such as leather and textiles, but I use many metal products partly due to my previous job experience. Regardless of the material and its use, I am influenced by German industrial design and shapes that exist in nature, and create minimalist designs. Though I do not put my own logo on the things I create, sometimes people can still recognize that they are made by me. I think that is evidence of the consistency of my self-expression.
Going forward, I hope to enhance the lineup of products designed by my company, lengthen the hours of my shop (which is currently open irregularly) and focus my efforts on conveying my concept.
--There are many metalworking artisans and factories in this area, so it seems an ideal place for ALLOY. Is there anything you are particularly aware of amidst this?
In my craft, I try to meet artisans in person and converse using our common language to understand each other. Utilizing my engineering background always helps.
I do this because designers customarily submit sketches and specifications to artisans for manufacturing, but it's often the case that only seeing the design on paper results in something completely different to what they imagined. The problem is a lack of communication. It is essential to meet directly and talk to convey the subtle nuances that cannot be gleamed from the information in a specification document. This approach is also a part of ALLOY's philosophy of "connecting everything."
Places that I frequent often in my day-to-day, are probably artisans' bases in the Taito-Sumida area. At their bases, I consult them on the specifics, make final adjustments to the finishing touches, or check on details like curved surfaces that cannot be fully expressed in a diagram. There was a time when I was treated like an outsider, but through an accumulation of communication, I was slowly accepted, and over time artisans have become more comfortable with me.
--The environment that enables such communication seems to be related with the natural characteristics of this area.
This neighborhood has many locals whose families have lived here for generations. When I started ALLOY, I ordered work from neighborhood carpenters and electricians. Word spread that there was a person who was trying to do something new, and my network suddenly grew. I think something characteristic about this area is that it is easy to make connections instantaneously. I have developed good relationships with the artisans who conduct manufacturing for ALLOY together with me and even go out for meals together.
Kuramae is a place that challenges the long-held impression of Tokyo as a dry city in which people don't want to be involved with one another and are not interested in getting to to know their neighbors. Although I have not lived in a single place for a long time since becoming an adult, this area is full of unexpected surprises, excitement, and great warmth. It's a neighborhood I would like to continue to be in for a long time.
With the concept of "connecting everything," ALLOY develops products that fuse the elements of engineering and design. ALLOY designs products that incorporate metal, wood and leather. The studio-cum-shop sells original items as well as creates accommodation-related products, shop furniture and various other order-made products.
Inoue Bldg. 1F 1-3-3 Kotobuki, Taito Ward, Tokyo
15 minutes walk / 6 minutes bicycle ride from NOHGA HOTEL UENO
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