In early December 2021, ARAS held a live stream on Instagram, featuring Tsutomu Ishikawa, Senior Managing Director of Ishikawa Kogyo, the developer of ARAS, and Tatsuya Uemachi, President of secca, a creative team that handles product design, on ARAS's vision and sustainable initiatives. The speaker spoke about the following topics.
What does sustainable mean to you?
This question received many comments from the audience. This was an opportunity to interact with the speakers in real time and think about "sustainability" together. At the end of the event, the announcement of the new ARAS series "Sustainable Collection" was made, and the live show was a great success.
Text / Facilitator: Shimazu (Dialogue Designer)
How ARAS was born
In the beginning, it was not even decided that "tableware" would be the axis of the project. We wanted to create culture and change the world for the better through resin. What are the items that can accompany people's lives and share values? There were countless searches and contemplations.
First, I hope to share the concept of the ARAS brand with our viewers. To do so, I think it would be easiest to start with the story of how the brand was born.
I had been involved with Ishikawa Jushi Kogyo as a designer for about two years prior to the launch of the brand. Initially, we were discussing environmental issues. It was a time when the significance of plastic, as represented by the problem of marine debris, was being questioned by the public.
Rather than being carried away by impressions, we must stop and carefully consider "what is the essential cause? It is a bit shortsighted to put all the responsibility on the material called "plastic. The problem lies not in the material itself, but in the "act of discarding things" and the "mechanism by which things are washed into the sea.
What is a "good future" in the true sense of the word for the environment and people? What can we do with the material "resin"? We will carefully reexamine the value and potential of resin and reweave it with the world. I learned a lot through discussions with Mr. Ishikawa. We came to the conclusion that in order to share our thoughts and ideas with a high degree of purity, it would be better to launch a new brand from scratch and deliver it to the world, so that its true value could be conveyed.
We spent more than a year creating the concept, the most time-consuming point in the launch of ARAS. We had many discussions even before we arrived at the tableware.
Ishikawa Jushi Kogyo has its roots in the production of lacquerware wood bases, such as Wajima-nuri and Yamanaka-nuri. The city of Kanazawa is also a major center of "food. We have a deep attachment to it and a strong affinity with "food" as a culture. We decided to combine "food" and "sustainability" to develop a brand that is uniquely our own.
The concept was not decided when the brand was born, but a clear concept came first and the brand was launched. Because it is a concept with a core, you are able to incorporate it into your products one after another. The "ARAS" concept is connected not only to tableware, but also to lifestyle and communication, such as the live space in this project.
We received a number of "sustainable for me" comments from viewers.
These included: "Treat what you have with care and don't dispose of it," "Refrain from using plastic bags and use eco-friendly bags," and "Pass on traditions and culture to the next generation. In addition, a 6-year-old ARAS user answered, "Throw garbage in the trash properly and put toys back where they belong after playing with them.
Each one of us has his or her own idea of "sustainability. And thinking about this question may already be a form of "sustainability.
Sustainability from a manufacturing perspective
Just by reading the comments, I am reminded once again of the diversity of sustainability. Can you tell us about what sustainability means to you both from a manufacturing perspective?
I have strong personal feelings on this point. I have the background of having returned to my father's company (Ishikawa Plastics Industry) from a major foreign company.
When you say the word "sustainable," most people probably first think of the global environment and ecology. In my earlier comment, I mentioned "passing it on to the next generation," and I think we must not forget that point. Do you know the problem that we manufacturing people are facing? It is the problem of successors.
Business succession is not progressing. The reason is simple: it is not because there are no successors, but because there is not enough profit to take over the business. Subcontractors are being unfairly underbid, and are barely making ends meet at the minimum wage. These small and medium-sized enterprises support Japan's manufacturing, or rather, our livelihood. When I returned to Ishikawa Jushi Kogyo, I was shocked to learn of this situation. Solving this issue is essential to pass on Japanese manufacturing to the next generation.
What we are working on at ARAS is the automation of work by robots and AI. By eliminating "human hands" from the process, we have been able to save labor and focus on manufacturing in an area where people can be "human" and demonstrate their value as human beings.
By moving away from labor-intensive businesses, we can pay more than minimum wage. Our company is also trying to change the status quo by making efforts to raise salaries and increase holidays. If such efforts inspire other companies around us, we can become a model case for the next generation of manufacturing in Japan. In parallel with global environmental issues, we are actively working on "passing on manufacturing to the next generation.
My idea of sustainability is "sustaining value. It is the time that a person can love a thing for that person and that person for that thing. We cherish things that we can love. When we take good care of things, we use them for a long time. In this way, the consumption of things becomes moderate, and as a result, the production of things also becomes moderate.
Originally, we had a natural disposition to cherish a single thing. That is why we were able to pay attention to what was behind the price when we bought things. We paid for the product, thinking about the people who made it, and then we got it, and then we saw the faces of the people who made it, and we cherished it again. That is what I consider sustainable.
ARAS values each customer's "once-in-a-lifetime encounter. This does not mean producing and selling products in large quantities in the dark. We have doubted the common sense that mass production = homogeneous products, and have aimed to create products that are made with the heart and soul of a once-in-a-lifetime encounter, even if they are mass-produced.
Take, for example, this cutlery. In fact, the handle is made of recycled material and has a speckled pattern. These are actually the kind of things that are treated as "defective" in our plastic manufacturing process. They are products that would normally be thrown away - the reason why they are thrown away is because they are not stable in appearance. In the case of mass-produced products, each product must have the same design.
ARAS dares to sublimate the "originally discardable product" to the level of a commercial product. As Mr. Kamimachi said, each piece has a slightly different expression, creating a "once-in-a-lifetime" pattern, which is also the hidden concept of ARAS.
It is not anyone's decision, but in the case of industrial products using molds, "stabilizing quality (including expression)" is justified, isn't it? There was also the aspect of viewing the role of "product design" as the act of homogeneously controlling reproducible and accurate color and shape in the process of mass production. That is what I questioned.
At ARAS, we took a hint from the "fluctuation" and "irregularity" produced by the phenomena of craftwork, and developed the product based on the idea of drawing out the phenomena naturally produced by industrial materials, rather than trying to control them. We believe that if we can give each piece its own individuality without compromising productivity, and if we can connect it to the customer's latent feelings of "the pleasure of choosing" and "one's own thing," it will become something that will be loved for a long time.
Mr. Ishikawa's "updating the corporate structure" and Mr. Kamimachi's "pursuit of products that can be used and loved for a long time". I think I had somehow overlooked the existence of these issues until I listened to the two of you. Whether to regard products with different patterns as "defective" or to sublimate them into "beloved products" and present them with new values, the experience and story of the recipient will be different even if they are made of the same materials. It is a very different story.
Picking up on audience feedback, he will answer questions from the perspectives of developers and designers. Here is a portion of the session.
ARAS products are nice, simple and stylish. Is there a reason why many of them are dark in color?
What is important when deciding on colors is to pursue a "better dining experience. The colors of the dishes themselves should be beautiful, of course, but they should also be background colors that make the food look "delicious" when it is served.
Vivid colors are so vivid that they make the food look dull. Vivid colors in front of dull colors look more glossy. Also, there are surprisingly few primary colors in nature. Foodstuffs are organic. Colors that exist in the natural world are more compatible. We are committed to playing a supporting role to enhance the main ingredient, the foodstuff.
ARAS plates and cutlery are hard to break, so they can be passed down from parents to children, and children who receive them are happy.
In fact, I am also a parent of three daughters, and basically ARAS dishes line our dining table, and I am happy to be able to use the same cutlery and plates with my children. I am happy to be able to use the same cutlery and plates with my children.
In fact, this is another hidden concept of ARAS. Parents and children, or even grandparents, can use the same tableware. I am glad that this concept is being conveyed.
Constructive dialogue between developers and designers
One memorable scene was when Mr. Ishikawa, responding to a question from a viewer, said, "Mr. Uemachi's 'munching' is difficult.... I couldn't help but ask, "What kind of exchanges do you have with him? I asked. ARAS is built on ideal communication between the team.
As for the mugs, I think they are the most functional products ever. It is thick, heat-resistant, easy to pick up, has a lower center of gravity, is shaped for easy washing, has a thin mouth, and is designed to feel good on the tongue when drinking.
This difference in thickness is exquisite, and was very difficult to reproduce, making it quite a challenge to manufacture. It is at such a level that we have even developed a special manufacturing method. The more our technology improves, the more secca's demands go a little beyond it. It is also an image that exceeds it by only 0.5, so if we make a desperate effort, we can do it. We can do it, but the effort involved is immeasurable.
Until now, the material "resin" has been used as a substitute for ceramic or glass vessels. Because it is a "substitute," it gives the impression of being inferior to the dining experience with "real" vessels such as ceramics and glass. In the normal course of things, there is no need to make a thin shape.
However, we decided to present a new value of "resin" by pursuing "a shape that can be obtained only with this material. To this end, we are pursuing our ideals.
Ishikawa is a positive company, so they never say, "It can't be done. First of all, they respond, "We'll give it a try. We were able to pursue the shape without compromise through repeated dialogues of "It won't work, but we might be able to do it this way...". As a result, the requests would go up little by little (laughs).
It is a very constructive relationship. Listening to you, I noticed that you are not simply a "product designer" in the sense that you are involved in everything from concept design to finding and solving problems.
In Japan, "designers" are generally perceived as "people who create colors and shapes," but my awareness is different. I understand the current issues, envision the future, and solve them through the "method" of design. Before thinking about design, I start by looking at the client's vision comprehensively and considering "what is the best form. We discover issues and questions, clarify them, and then solve them through design. That is what I consider a "designer.
There are still very few companies that accept this as work, and from the very beginning, Ishikawa Plastics Kogyo relied on us to create their vision and concept. I was very happy with this relationship, and I think it was this partnership that led to the birth of ARAS.
I think that one thing that Mr. Uemachi and I have in common is that we are both so serious that we are "idiots. We seriously discuss "what is the right thing to do" and "what is the value to the customer," and verify them one by one. There are countless discussions and verifications. If it were only the passion of one side or the other, I don't think we would have been able to continue such honest and constructive discussions.
~Sustainable Collection ~"Cedar Bark Plates" to Protect Forests
As the live show reached its climax, ARAS presented its new "Sustainable Collection" series.
Instead of the ARAS material called Tritan, we use half a material called polypropylene and the other half is natural cedar bark. The current state of mountain conservation and forestry involves the issue of "having to consume cedar. Among them, "cedar bark" has no use. By using that material, we can give back to environmental issues while cutting resin usage fees as much as possible. This is the idea behind the creation of this product.
As you can see, each piece has a different look. Cedar bark is a natural product, so it is thin in summer and thick in winter. Depending on the mountain area, the color, thickness, shape, and smell are different. It is very difficult to handle as a raw material, and in that sense, this product has never existed in the world before. In this sense, this product has become a symbolic product of ARAS, which says, "This is what sustainability is all about.
We strictly design the margins where the material shimmers. How much do we let them go wild and cause fluctuations in expression? We decide on the framework and design it with particular care. What we value are efforts to protect the environment, design that enriches the food experience, and the sense of irregularity for each and every encounter. It is not good if only one of them excels; we design while considering the overall balance. This collection is truly connected to environmental issues, and it becomes a lovable object as it is.
I have been involved in manufacturing since my previous job, and I had a goal that I longed to achieve when I started my own business. That is, to see the customer's face directly and hand deliver the product. It is not easy to communicate directly with each and every one of them, but the power of online has made this possible today. I am happy to be in this situation where we are able to create products while valuing this mutual relationship.
We would like to continue to create "products that are loved" by our customers by incorporating their perspectives into our development. And I want ARAS to be the brand that best embodies this.
What was the goal of ARAS in the first place? We sometimes discuss this with our development members. Our goal is not to have customers buy ARAS products, but to make their daily eating habits as enjoyable and rich as possible through the use of ARAS products.
We do not think that environmental problems can be solved only by our power. If we convey our thoughts, deliver our products, and increase the number of friends who share our ideas, we will be able to make a bigger movement. Then, society may finally change a little.
There are still many things that we have yet to accomplish, but we will continue to develop our products toward that goal. We would like to create a comfortable dietary life together with you, while receiving your opinions.