Furniture Design Agra‘ is organized by Nanae Hara, a furniture designer. She has participated in ‘Happening‘, one of the largest interior events in Japan. Some of you reading this might know of her since she’s been featured in some interior/life style magazines. We interviewed Nanae Hara of ‘Furniture Design Agra’ an entitywith a great reputation both in Japan and overseas.

Please tell us your background. I’ve heard you’re originally from Tokyo and majored in oil painting at university. How did you start making furniture in Hokkaido?

Though I majored in oil painting at university, I was doing a plastic art as well. It was more difficult to make three-dimensional shapes than I expected and I had no idea on what I should have to do then. After I graduated from university, I had no regular employment. Then I came up with an idea that I might be able to learn how to make three-dimensional shapes if I found a job at a furniture manufacturer. I visited a factory while I was traveling around Hokkaido on a motorbike. They told me to come here and work with them from next April. Luckily, I could find a job at a furniture manufacturer. Unexpectedly, the factory was located in Asahikawa where there were lots of furniture manufacturers. At the factory, only a few people did all of the manufacturing process and I learnt a great deal from them. I quit five years ago and become independent.

Please tell us about Furniture Design Agra.

To propose a cute lifestyle for cool adults and to appreciate the great pains the office workers have taken from their routines, I would greatly like to provide comfortable and luxurious furniture with luxurious materials. I would like to provide products that can be your cute and lovely partner with stability and tolerance. Something that you can lean your body on.

Does your typical Japanese identity sometimes become an idea in creating furniture?

For most Japanese who used to live their everyday lives sitting on tatami until quite recently, I think it’s difficult to understand the Western’s lives on wooden floor or carpet.
Furniture imported into Japan has been remodeled in Japanese style, but I don’t know if it’s good or bad. For example, chairs of Japanese cars and airplanes are really uncomfortable. This is one of the reasons I want to create comfortable furniture.
Though I think such a kind of evolution is rather interesting when it comes fashion culture such as the avant-garde street fashion in Harajyuku. I want to learn Japanese tradition and culture correctly. Not evolving by misunderstanding, it should be evolved with a clear grasp of the essence and it’s the task of Japanese people.

You’ve made furniture to sit astride.

I hope everyone experiences a ‘sense of sitting astride’ through my furniture. I mean you can do that action in your daily life.
When I first met the chair from the Queen Anne period, that one could sit astride and put a book on the back of a chair to read, I decided to make this type of chair. However, people in Europe were rather conservative about this idea. When I went to Spain to show my furniture at an exhibition, they didn’t understand the idea at all even after I explained it to them. But once they actually sit astride on the chair, they said things like ‘wonderful!’ and understood what I meant.
I think this idea was a great discovery and ‘chairs to sit astride’ could be one of the forms of future furniture. Actually it’s not good for eating and drinking, but it’s good for a meeting in the office.

You’ve also made furniture on casters.

Yes, it’s because I believe it’s convenient. The younger generation who are making furniture have also adopted the idea of casters. This means today many people want casters for their furniture and it’s the common taste for people who have just started making furniture. Moving while sitting on it. This is one of the demands of the times, though it’s pretty lazy.

You’ve had exhibitions at galleries as well. Do you think objects you create are a kind of art?

I don’t think so. I’m no more than a creator of furniture. I think my furniture is not entirely satisfactory if it’s called art. When I make a chair, I only think of sitting on it and I don’t think much of its looking. Though I think of colors of cloth because I use fake-furs for the cover, but essentially, people enjoy the texture of fur, not the sight.

So they are of practical use?

Yes. When I design a shelf, I always attach importance to store A4 papers. I think it’s meaningless if a shelf is only 1 centimeter short to store A4 papers perfectly even if the form is cute. I don’t mean that I don’t care of its looking from design perspective, but I rather would like people who buy my furniture to use them and feel the good quality of them.

Please tell us about the items like a pouch and bag distributed through Shift Factory. Are you going to propose not only furniture but also lifestyles in the future?

With the theme ‘a cute lifestyle for cool adults’, I think other daily necessities could be proposed by Agra. I designed that pouch and bag with the idea that both of them are cute and cool pets that make you feel like taking them along with you. Make sure that there’s no one around you and stroke them gently.

What do you think about furniture in the future ? What kind of furniture do you think will be needed/created in the future?

With the development of technology, all sorts of things have been miniaturized. I think everything would be miniaturized more and more than you expect in the future and there would be no larger objects than you in your small room. What we need ultimately are something to shelter ourselves from the rain and wind, and something to support our bodies, so all of these functions would be incidental to them. With this idea, television and lighting would be fit into the wall, and if a man could live floating in the air, sofas and chairs would be needless anymore. Then what should creators of furniture do? Make a device to make a person float or to fit lighting into the wall would be their job. The idea of furniture itself would be changing in the future.

Do you have any plans for the near future?

I’ve made the Agra catalogues every year and this year, I have a plan to make the Agra postcard book to showcase the Agra furniture with pictures. I hope everyone imagines ‘a lifestyle with Agra’ by seeing those small pictures. The postcard book will include some of my new works, so if you’re interested in it, please try to find it.
Apart from that, I’ll keep my eyes on the near future and continue my research and development to live a more comfortable life.

Address: 1-15, N6 W21 Chuo-ku Sapporo Japan
Tel: +81-11-632-8889

Text: Shinichi Ishikawa from Numero Deux
Translation: Mayumi Kaneko

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