Saturday, October 23, 2010

New Required Reading

One of my first blog posts, from early this past Summer, was about all the books I had wanted to read before coming to Japan, as preliminary research on topics related to my project. I was actually able to finish most of them! Due to my self-imposed one suitcase rule, however, I wasn't able to bring many books with me. I only brought the very necessary "Lonely Planet Japan Guidebook", a small book on Japanese etiquette, a pocket-size Japanese dictionary, and one design book I bought a few days before my flight. In the past few weeks, I was given a book on traditional Japanese lifestyles from the Edo period, and a book on modern Japanese ceramics. I've pretty much shelved the guidebook for when I travel, and the etiquette book I practically finished on the plane ride, so the other three I've just begun to read. They include "Emotionally Durable Design" by Jonathan Chapman. This is the one I got right before I left home. I am just about done with it. It is great and very relevant to my project. It is about designing new products that, instead of focusing on sustainability as the primary consideration for responsible design, have more empathy and emotional qualities. This can alleviate many of the current problems with our industrialized, consumption driven society. By designing products with what Chapman calls "emotional durability", products can age better, have more meaning and value to users, and be used and enjoyed for years to come instead prematurely thrown away. My reasons for studying the Japanese aesthetic style of Wabi Sabi are of similar intentions. I believe the sentiments of Wabi Sabi, if harnessed and integrated effectively, can create value and meaning in everyday objects, and thus provide an alternative to our wasteful, throw-away society. Very interesting book! The next book is called "Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan" by Azby Brown. I've just started this one and it is great, too. I was given this one by my wood working sensei. He is good friends with the autor and I have actually arranged a meeting with the author next week when I am in Tokyo for Tokyo Design Week! The last book I was just given by my ceramic sensei and is more or less a collection of fine examples of some of the latest ceramics by prominent Japanese potters. My sensei has a piece featured in it!

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