• Event report

Material Meetup KYOTO vol.03 Report

by : Kelsie Stewart

“Material Meetup KYOTO” is a gathering where manufacturers, craftsmen, creators and makers come together on the theme of “material”. At the Material Meetup KYOTO, people openly communicate across industry boundaries, from the perspectives of “design and technology” to “society and materials”.

Come and discover in person the unique characteristics and charm of materials which cannot be properly appreciated by browsing a material catalogue alone. A place where cross-sector collaboration and project seeds are planted simultaneously, a place with material at its core. This is Material Meetup KYOTO.

Material Meetup KYOTO vol.03 Theme: Aesthetics, materials, form- The gaze and design of ‘Conduct’

Materials themselves are things we take from nature. We transform them and eventually we give them back to nature. Then, nature takes over again.

Brigit Severin

Nature, transformation, material exploration: these were the keywords that wove together and set the tone of the Material Meetup. Where do we find classic, timeless beauty? What role does culture and history play in shaping our concepts of design? How can close material study alongside craftsmen by product designers encourage innovation? These questions and more were explored at the Material KYOTO Meetup, vol. 3. International and Japanese designers, manufacturers, creative hobbyists and FabCafe MTRL Kyoto fans congregated for a Sunday afternoon of deep conversation on the multifaceted theme of material.

Material Meetup KYOTO, vol. 3 Presenters

Studio B. Severin
Birgit Severin & Guillaume Neu-Rinaudo

Based in Berlin and run by the French-German duo, Guillaume Neu-Rinaudo and Birgit Severin, the Studio B. Severin stands for a conceptual, aesthetic and material-research driven design approach, aiming to bridge between craft, industry, object and user. In Kyoto, Birgit Severin and Guillaume Neu-Rinaudo look in the layered meaning of cleaning in Japanese society, for example how cleaning tools are used to develop a sense of living together. In addition to this, they are exploring the origin of this cleaning vision in religion, and finally focus on the manufacturing of traditional brushes and brooms. The project is taking a wide perspective now and one of the direction will be five pieces developed in collaboration with local craftsmen.


Né Un Design Studio
Kiyomi Suzuki

After joining Ishimaru in 2009, Kiyomi Suzuki’s interest in carbon fiber, combined with her respect for Takao Ishimaru, the president of Ishimaru, led to a project that aimed to design an innovative and exciting carbon fiber product. Kiyomi Suzuki often visited the carbon fiber factory to interact with artisans and was impressed by their devotion to craftsmanship and meticulous material processing methods. After working on a number of life-size drawings, models and mock-ups, in 2009, her 100% carbon fiber Cherche Midi chair was born. Weighing only 960g, the chair has a light, strong yet flexible body, with a silvery surface that looks like it’s been dipped in pitch blackness.


PRESENTATION I: Studio B. Severin
Materials: As surfaces, story-tellers, and cultural touch-points

Over time, materials, including surfaces themselves, serve as a medium to express stories of transformation via their interaction with the natural world. Interaction can include intentional and unintentional human contact, interaction with environmental elements (wind, rain, etc.), or other temporal interaction. Through a series of abstract photos of surfaces taken in Kyoto, Brigit introduced a cyclic theme of growth, maturity, and decay. Through these images of various walls made of wood and steel, audience members could see how culture can be expressed through the way we treat materials. For example, in Kyoto, the color and texture of the dark burned wood typically seen in Machiya, traditional wooden townhouses, can be viewed as an expression of Japanese people’s fundamental relationship with their material everyday life.


Studio B. Severin presentation, transformation of surfaces

Design Impressionism, Glass and Light

A major highlight, and lense to studio b severin’s process and thinking, was the presentation of their Design Impressionism project. The Design Impressionism project started from an observation made at the Botanical Garden in Berlin. From the outside, visitors can peer inside through a foggy and textured glass; the atmosphere from the scattering of light is reminiscent of 19th century Impressionist art. Birgit and Guillaume were curious about the glass production itself and contacted the glass company to research how the glass was made. From this, studio b severin focuses on glass in order to investigate the effects of the industrial revolution on art. The window-glass used during in 19th century in the construction of buildings creates a special atmosphere that could have inspired impressionist painters in their approach to light.

After visiting the traditional glass factory, studio b severin realized a series of objects made from traditionally produced rolled glass. Guillaume presented how the resulting works, a cuboid table, for example, are everyday objects that can take on the colors and forms of an impressionist painting in a poetic way. In one table, the designers used a Japanese woodblock print under which was created in the same period. The rolled glass on top abstracts the woodblock print with a water-like texture which, like a fluid, reflects different depending on the lighting. The result is a new work that expresses major influences from the period using traditional materials in the modern day.


Studio B. Severin presentation: Impressionist art in glass and nature


The Vanitas are a series of rubber vases that explore the properties of rubber while simultaneously expressing 3 stages of transformation. In Vanitas, there is the perfect vase (an unopened blossom), a slightly deformed vase (the flower’s blooming stage, signaling maturity), and the heavily deformed vase (the inevitable stage of withering and the decay of the flower). The Vanitas were exhibited with flowers chosen by FabCafe MTRL’s own flower artist, Yuya Maeda (Edalab), who regularly supplies the shop with unique floral arrangements.

The production process of the Vanitas include fabrication techniques such as 3D printing, rubber rotation casting as well as by-hand craftwork during different parts of the making process. In this way, the designers were able to create and adjust the final product as simultaneously digital and analogue artisans. The color for the vases was influenced by the color of the flower petals that were a result of the decaying process. The matte surface and glassy dots on the outside appear almost ceramic-like. Upon touch, the texture is undoubtedly rubbery which can be quite surprising.

PRESENTATION II: Né Un Design Studio
Deep knowledge of carbon fiber gives way to chic design

Né Un Design Studio presentation

Kiyomi Suzuki (Né Un Design Studio) began her career as an architect working under Ateliers Jean Nouvel in Paris, France from 2005. While working at the architecture firm as a member of Ateliers’ lighting team and making proposing large architecture projects, she grew increasingly experienced in the exploration of the relationship between material and light. At the same time, Kiyomi was taking interest in lighting and form found in her everyday life in Paris. For instance, in the seating materials of the benches in public parks and the silhouette created by the back of a person sitting in a cozy Parisian cafe. These professional and personal experience led to her journey in the exploration of the material carbon fiber.

…when a new technology or material is introduced, if it doesn’t have a reason to exist, or a beautiful way of being used, it won’t be picked up by the general public and will likely fall to the wayside as an unused material.

Kiyomi Suzuki

In 2009, Kiyomi joined the company, Ishimaru in Roppongi, Tokyo where they were using acrylic as a starting point for furniture design. At this time, carbon fiber was being mostly used for airplane manufacturing for Boeing, for golf shafts, and other uses which were largely outside of everyday use. According to Kiyomi, like LED lighting, when a new technology or material is introduced, if it doesn’t have a reason to exist, or a beautiful way of being used, it won’t be picked up by the general public and will likely fall to the wayside as an unused material. This is one of the great values of putting artists, designers and other creators in constant touch with materials and new technologies.

When Kiyomi reminisced about the heavy chairs in the park in Paris, she recalled how heavy they must and how carbon fiber would be a good lightweight alternative. This was one of the influences that led to her designing and creating The Cherche Midi chair.

The Cherche Midi chair

The jump from architect to material-centered product designer is not such a far leap. Architects and product designers both consciously design with empathy in mind, always thinking about the experience of the end user. In the prototype phase for the Cherche Midi chair, Kiyomi also did user experience with people in the Ishimaru company, asking many different people to try varying heights of the chair’s seat. The original prototype was too weak so she sought to get to know the material even better to improve the strength of the design.

To get to know carbon fiber as a material inside and out, she collaborated closely with Ishimaru craftsmen. She she went back to thinking about what makes carbon fiber strong and considered using a weaving technique. At this point, Kiyomi began questioning the qualities of the carbon fiber more deeply: How far can we stretch the properties of carbon fiber? What kinds of shapes and designs can only carbon fiber (and no other material) make? Despite the initially doubting craftsmen, Kiyomi was able to achieve a 360 degree weaving pattern to realize the final design of the Cherche Midi chair.

From May, 2019, Kiyomi will be exhibiting the Cherche Midi chair at le mobilier d architects 1960-2020.

Materials Introduction Pitch by Material Producers

Creating a direct connection between creators and material producers is one of the core functions of the Material Meetup. By doing this, community members, including artists, designers, hobbyists, etc., can examine new materials in person and identify their special characteristics from fresh perspectives. This commitment to an offline and personal experience of materials aids in the exploration of the new potential of unique and interesting materials.


Carbon Textile Specialist championing a new style of carbon textile weaving. Fukuoka Weaving proposes highly functional carbon textile with high quality design utilizing a traditional Kimono weaving technique called “Nishijin Ori”.


Pattern Design as a material for all creators. Introducing textile patterns as a material to construct a continuous infinite surface, without top, bottom, left or right ends. Specializing in original (made-to-order) patterns which can be used for a wide range of creative uses and products.

Taica αGEL Discover Softness

The αGEL (“Alpha gel”) is a soft gel material that can be utilized in wide range of applications. Its unique characteristics provides special haptic value through new products for the lifestyles of tomorrow.

Are you a creator interested in connecting with craftsmen, material manufacturers, and material hobbyists? Are you a material producer looking to challenge and experiment with your materials alongside creatives? The Material Meetup is held regularly in Kyoto and Tokyo and we invite you to attend, present or exhibit your materials! Join us to tinker, play and experiment with unique and interesting materials.

Past Material Meetups


■ vol.01 Theme:「Responsive materials」
■ vol.02 Theme:「Materials that stimulates sensitivity」
■ vol.03 Theme:「Structure and strength of material」


■ vol.01 Theme:「Materials and the Social Needs of the SDGs」
■ vol.02 Theme:「Material/Design Research- Finding the necessity of the “shape” of things」
■ vol.03 Theme:Aesthetics, materials, form- The gaze and design of ‘Conduct’