‘I wish these objects with “a predictable shape” can become daily living utensils that provide people with a sense of comfort and security. I hope they can be embraced and become an indispensible part of everyday life.’ From this excerpt of ‘The Predictable Shapes’ in the carpenter Ryuji Mitani’s book The Era of Craft for Everyday Life, I suddenly realized the rationale behind the ordinary shape of the wooden utensils he creates — he never intends for bringing surprises or being special.
The predictable shapes are predictable because they were little by little altered and transformed to survive and thrive in the times of change. Nothing more and nothing less, these are the shapes that are needed for utensils to perform their duties perfectly. There can be plentiful ways to design a white shirt or a tissue paper box, but trends and gimmick do not last, what remain consequently become the predictables. The butter dish made by Mitani is a simple rectangular dish that comes with a plate and a butter knife, the side plate is basically a shallow circular plate. His designs cannot be more predictable; this 3-tine wooden fork was designed under the same logic without an exception. Most of the handmade wooden forks have 3 tines, the predictable design, because handmade 4-tine fork is usually too wide to fit into the mouth.
Rather than tending the shapes, Ryuji Mitani aims his attention at the texture of wood and the coating material. Although he likes Chemex coffee pot, he found the wax finish on the original wooden handle is too thick and hence cold and unreachable. To give the wooden handle a different temperament, Mitani made his own one with cherry blossom wood. The new handle is less water resistent as it has an oil finish, but this treatment can well maintain the excellent texture of the wood itself. Mitani was so delighted to know his coffee pot is adored by many.
‘It is never necessary to call for attention. When you can express your passion with sincerity, a resonance can be created and reach others.’ The modified coffee pot has taught Ryuji Mitani this lesson. As for me, from Ryuji Mitani’s wooden fork I learnt ‘all usual deeds are wonderful as long as they are done with dedication.’