Forests are full of original energy. Forest education, which is popular in Germany, turns forests into classrooms where children explore in nature. Dead leaves, stones, trees and grasslands all become teaching materials, training children’s senses and letting them feel nature’s energy. To modern-day people, even though a good many wooden products can be found in life, forests still seem so far away. When Hiromi Komiyama, a designer, was working at a new construction site, she was suddenly greeted by a fragrance. Later on, she found out that the strong aroma originated from the trees being cut by craftsmen. She thought to herself that perhaps such a unique fragrance is the most original charm of trees. Therefore, she collaborated with Matsuba Factory in using various kinds of wood to manufacture pencils and pencil sharpeners in order to display afresh the charm of wooden materials. The design has also won DFA Design for Asia Awards 2019 – Gold Award.
Putting a pencil inside a sharpener and turning it slowly — such an act looks simple and ordinary, but in the eyes of Hiromi Komiyama, it is an act of sculpting wood. Each thin pencil shaving resembles a flower. After width and depth are carefully adjusted, the blade shaves off fluffy, beautiful flower petals in irregular patterns. Petals rest inside the sharpener, emitting a waft of faint wood fragrance. Closing your eyes, you follow the smell, imagining that you were in the forest, feeling nature’s original energy.
OB： Can you tell us the meaning behind the name “KiKiKi” ? The logo is quite interesting, what does it mean?
K：KiKiKi is written in Japanese as “木聞器” and is read and pronounced as KiKiKi. “木” means tree or wood, “聞” means savour taste and sound, and “器” means container or cup. In other words, KiKiKi is a coined-name that means a container for savouring (scent, sounds, etc.) trees. In addition, the Japanese word “森”, which means forest, is made up of three trees (= 木). This product is a gift from the forest and has the meaning of receiving the blessings of the forest.
OB：Can you talk more about the design of the pencil and the sharpener?
K：This product aims to let people know the charm of trees, not by the physical aspect but by more essential features. A characteristic of tree among natural materials is that it has a unique fragrance. Moreover, it depends on the tree species. The moment when a tree emits the strongest scent is when an external force is applied to the fibre of the tree, like the moment when a lumberjack cuts down a tree in the forest. We have redesigned (or converted) that moment in a poetic and nostalgic way, shaving a tree is like shaving a pencil.
The design is completed when the user shaves a wood and beautiful shavings are created along with the fragrance. Our design includes a process of actions that the sharpener can be carried to the nose as if drinking tea in a small tea cup, and be placed on a desk and look at it for a while.
OB：What are the functions of different types of wood? How to find the suitable wood for myself?
K：The component of natural tree fragrance has many functions to protect the tree itself, but it is well known to give also humans good effects such as refreshment, relaxation and healing. Some trees have a sweet and soft fragrance, while others have a strong and refreshing fragrance that you can’t think of as a natural tree. I think that it is also good to find your favourite scent casually and enjoy it according to your mood without thinking too much. But if you want to use it more according to the situation properly, here are some examples: “HINOKI”, a Japanese cypress, is suitable in the morning for awakening; “KUSUNOKI”, a Japanese camphor tree, is suitable when you are tired at work or when you want to get an inspiration; “SUGI”, a Japanese cedar, is suitable for relaxing at break or before sleep, etc. There is a suitable scent depending on your mood, condition, and time of day.
OB：What do you want to express through your works? What is the most important element(s) in your work?
K：We are always challenging to find a way to draw out the goodness of subject and object that we design. To consider from various angles, such as material, function, technology, background etc. and focus on fundamental attraction, essence, and possibilities of it. We are trying to create things with simple idea as much as possible, and present them to people which have something with pleasure, new discoveries, and a little playfulness.
OB：Do you have any interesting or memorable stories with pencils?
K：When I was a primary school student, my school rule was to use pencils. It may be just me, but after I sharpened the pencil, I smelled the tip of the pencil. I could feel only a scent of lead though. I smelled the coloured pencils as well, but there were different scents. After entering junior high school, I started using mechanical pencils. It’s like a kind of passing ritual, and the use of mechanical pencils at that time made me feel a special feeling as if I was a step closer to an adult. However, I no longer tried to smell the scent unconsciously. As we grow up, many people have to put themselves in an environment that demands productivity and efficiency. However, it is also famous that human emotional growth and innovation are not born from productivity and efficiency.
Sharpening a pencil generates shavings and takes more time and effort than one push of a mechanical pencil. However, the seemingly wasted time was the aspect that nurtured my pure curiosity as a child. I think that today’s adults who are busy every day need time to feel that we are a part of nature.
OB：Do you already have a next project in mind? Are you planning on designing more scented wood products?
K：Yes, we do. It’s not focused on the scent of wood. However, there were discoveries through the KiKiKi project for us too. There are also new ideas gained through this process, and inspired the new products we will design in the near future.