Skillful Amalgamator: Nendo’s multifaceted Oki Sato talks about his new endeavours

MAY 5, 2016 | By as told to Pramiti Madhavji
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT Born in 1977, Oki Sato was born in Toronto, Canada and then went on to study at Waseda University in Japan. He founded Nendo in 2002; Sway, a side table designed for Marsotto Edizioni, an Italian brand specialising in marble furniture. The piece exploits the weight of the marble often perceived as a negative factor.
Photograph courtesy Akihiro Yoshida; The 50 Manga Chairs are inspired by different elements from the cult Japanese comics like speech bubbles or effect lines or emotional symbols like sweat or tears.
Photograph courtesy Takumi Ota; Displaying both function and strength, the H-horse for Kartell is inspired by steel H-beams used in large structures such as skyscrapers and bridges.
Photograph courtesy Akihiro Yoshida.

Born in Canada, Oki Sato founded his Japanese design studio Nendo in 2002. He has worked across various genres of design spanning from graphic and products to furniture, installations, interiors and food too. He spoke to us about what he showcased at Salone del Mobile 2016 Milan, including the 50 Manga Chairs installation for Friedman Benda gallery based in New York and his collaboration with Kartell.
ELLE DECOR: What was the inspiration behind the 50 Manga Chairs installation? Why did you choose the comic book genre as a theme?Oki Sato: As a child, I really liked Manga. I would hide in my room and read book after book. It is an integral part of Japanese culture; a way of communicating three dimensional feelings, movements and emotions in a two dimensional manner. I started thinking about transferring Manga techniques to furniture, and began developing it a year and a half ago. From the initial 70 chairs we ended up with 50. The stainless steel seaters were polished in Niigata, Japan and it took roughly four months to polish each chair due to their different shapes. We will be selling through the New York based gallery Friedman Benda. Some of these are difficult to sit on, but these have their own characters, emotions and stories.
ED: Tell us about your collaboration with Kartell.OS: We designed the H-horse and a stool called Smile for Kartell’s first collection for children. We’ve been trying to work together since the past four years and then suddenly during the last few months they decided to do this playful line, which is not just limited to kids.
ED: For Kartell, why did you choose the rocking horse? Does that also have some kind of emotional background?OS: I started with the H shaped steel beam commonly used while constructing buildings and bridges. It’s industrial but structural, and I thought, “How can a kid sit on the beam?”. I started bending it, and it took the form of a rocking horseThat process of thinking is very similar to the history of Kartell. They began manufacturing functional laboratory equipment and then moved to highly emotional fun objects and furniture .
ED: What else are you working on at the moment?OS: We are doing an exhibition with Marsotto Edizioni that specialises in marble furniture only. We’ve created five collections for them. For the first time, we are working on a heavy, solid medium like marble, with the aim of making it appear soft and light, as well as to entice excitement and humour… this was a huge challenge for us.

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