The "Once a Month Gallery" project will be a gallery in the store, inviting artists active in various genres. From October 16 to November 5, we will be featuring Yuko Tokuda, a designer and art director whose works span graphics and products. We asked her about her ideas, handkerchiefs, and creations while looking back on the 18-year history of Classics the Small Luxury.
ceramics and a microcosm drawn on white paper (Ms. Tokuda).
Looking around the store where handkerchiefs designed by Ms. Tokuda are displayed
－ What is it like? The exhibition. Please take a look at this exhibition.
Mr. Tokuda: The exhibition was wonderful. I'm very happy, I'm very happy.
－In the past, we used to set a theme, like "music" or something like that. But this was the first time we focused on a single artist. I'm the second one to do so.
Mr. Tokuda I see. No, no, no, after Mick...that's amazing.
－(Laughs) Normally, I would have edited and MD'd the presentations given at Sun-Ad Angels (*1) according to the theme. But this time, Mr. Tokuda's world was well-defined, and I thought I could do it (in-store development) on my own.
Ms. Tokuda: Oh, I'm so glad. I'm glad I made so many suggestions. (Laughs)
－So, did you start with Sun-Ad Angels? The very first, the three of you?
Ms. Tokuda: Female designers and art directors were chosen within Sun-Ad... I wonder what criteria were used to select them? There were probably fewer female designers than there are now, so the three of us were chosen out of necessity.
－But I don't know how the three Angelus designers were chosen, but looking back on it now, I think it was a really good balance.
Tokuda: We were young, so the two designers were going along with Mr. Takai, who was already a solid art director, and we were like, "Let's go! The three of us were like, "Let's go with him! It was a long time ago. I was still... (laughs) I was young.
－But, although he was a designer at an advertising agency, Tokuda-san's work was very product-like.......
Tokuda: Yes, I was a ceramic artist in the arts and crafts department. I threw a potter's wheel. My professor at that time specialized in ceramic design, and his tableware was in the permanent collection at Moma. When I asked him if he would like to work in that field, he said that Finland would be a good place to start. So I went to graduate school in Finland. So I went to graduate school in Finland.
－Wow, I didn't realize that.
Mr. Tokuda: So, why did I join Sun-Ad? (Laughs) Mr. Kasai (*2) was originally very famous for his graphics, and I liked what he created. I was in Finland and wondering what I should do to find a job. I thought it was interesting that an advertising company specializing in graphics would be looking for a product designer. That's why I joined. I had always been fascinated by graphics, even though it was three-dimensional.
－Well, it was a great encounter. At that time, I was using a computer, and if I remember correctly, when I received the first presentation, Mr. Tokuda was the only one who drew by hand. He hand-drew a square on a white paper.
Mr. Tokuda (laughs) Yes, he drew by hand. When I had just joined the company, I asked my seniors how I should make a presentation. And he said, "Oh, it's fine, just take it as you like. （He said, "Just do what you think is good, Tokuda-chan," and "Just be rough, just be rough. And when I really submitted a rough draft, the two of them came back with an amazingly solid, well-designed draft on a Mac... What! I was like, "What?
－(Laughs.) (Laughs.) It was different from what I had heard.
(Laughs.) (Laughs.) (Laughs.) I was the only one who drew it in pencil, like this, with colored pencils.
－(Laughs.) (Laughs.) There are a lot of tiny ones like this. (Laughs.) There are a lot of tiny ones like this.
Ms. Tokuda: (laughs) I'm not conscious of being tiny, but it's just how I feel. (laughs) I'm not conscious of being tiny, it's just how I feel.
－I know this is going back and forth, but your ideas make the creators weep, don't they?
Mr. Tokuda: Yes, all of them are. I've thought about it.
－I think this is a wonderful group of works. But, although they look so cute, they are very hard to make. Actually. I don't know how to make the vase "still green" either. I think it must have been very difficult.
Tokuda-san It was very hard. It was really hard. I'm glad you didn't give up.
－(laughs) Right. So, how did you make that?
Mr. Tokuda: It's made from a so-called plaster mold and "deisyo" (mud). Mr. Tokuda gives us a lecture on the pottery production process. He explained for quite some time, but as an amateur, I was struggling to understand his explanations. I see, I see. It seems that "still green" involves multiple complicated molds, techniques for making uniform products, craftsmanship, and a few tricks and secrets. It was a very hard work, making the maker weep.
Mr. Tokuda: "still green" took about a year to make.
－If you say so, we didn't take a year. HIKKOMIAt first, I was like, "How are you going to make this? But it wasn't hard at all. (Laughs)
Mr. Tokuda: Two to three months? (Laughs)
－(Laughter) No, no, no, it's not the same thing... (Laughter) ... You're really asking a lot, aren't you? (laughs) Well, that's why we can create something that has never existed before.
Mr. Tokuda, you really did a good job. (Laughs)
－It's like you're being challenged to a fight. Yes, yes (laughs), like I'm going to give it a try.
Mr. Tokuda: Oh, but that's exactly how it is, isn't it? It's fun every time. (Laughs) I brought it with me. (laughter).
－(Laughter) Oh, you had such a mean feeling?
(Laughs.) (Laughs.) (Laughs.) Mr. Tokuda: No, I didn't, but I thought that there must be something in the fact that it was a product that had never been made before. I bring it to them thinking that it must be something difficult, something that people don't want to do.
－It's nice. But that's why I always take all of Mr. Tokuda's designs home with me. I asked him to let me take one of his designs home with me.
Mr. Tokuda (laughs) Yes, that's why I'm always happy.
－That's interesting. But, since we don't know, we have to ask ourselves, "Can we do this? If we had thought of it ourselves, we would have wondered from the beginning if we could do it. If we had thought of it ourselves, we would have wondered if we could do it from the beginning, and we would have never come up with it.
Tokuda: That's because we know what we're doing.
－You think it is not possible from the beginning. That's why you don't think that way.
Mr. Tokuda: That's right. Not knowing is scary. (laughs) In a good way.
Out of the microcosm, and then pull back."HIKKOMI". Embroidery.
－So, you know, the first tiny roughHIKKOMINot, you know, "overhang" or something like that, and they showed me...
Ms. Tokuda: Oh, and the rough sketch was hand-drawn, and I couldn't use the illustrator software. I couldn't use the illustrator software, but I couldn't use it. I couldn't do things like fill a square screen with patterns or pictures. But since I was invited to join this team, I wondered what I could do. I wondered if I could at least draw a cat.
Mr. Tokuda: I was wondering if I could at least draw a flower. (Laughs.) I thought, "I can draw at least a flower. Then I thought, since I am participating as a product designer, there is no point in doing the same thing as a graphic designer, so I thought of a three-dimensional way...
Mr. Tokuda: Yes, that's right. That's why I thought of embroidery.
－I see~. But not only in the way you make them, but also in terms of the characters, Tokuda's works are very cute and feminine, but in a certain part, I don't feel a gender difference. I think that's why they have been a hit until now.
Ms. Tokuda, I am very happy to hear that.
－I feel that it is something that goes beyond age and gender.
Ms. Tokuda: I'm glad to hear that. I am happy to hear that today. HIKKOMII was happy to hear that. During the presentation of "I was so happy to hear that," another woman from Classics showed me a flimsy A4 sketch of a dog and a cat, thinking that since I had made a rough sketch last year that it should be retracted this year. I showed them the dog and the cat, and they looked at me like, "Oh, yeah. And at the end of the presentation, the woman said, "It was fun, like watching a light movie."
－Oh, wow. I've never heard anyone say that before.
Mr. Tokuda: Wow, for the first time, I was thrilled and happy. I was so happy that I don't know if I have ever felt happier than that.
－ HIKKOMIDid you have a lot of colors of "1" from the beginning?
Mr. Tokuda: No, no, I think there were one or two colors. I think it was one or two colors. I guess that was the beginning. Then, how many years did it take for you to say, "I want to increase the number of colors?
－So we came up with new colors, 12 colors, 12 colors, 24 colors. What did you think of the new colors, Mr. Tokuda?
Tokuda: I had been making pop colors, so I wanted to change them a little. I thought that was quite acceptable. I wonder if I will want to change it to POP again when that era settles down a bit.
－Everyone has grown up, haven't they?
How did you come up with the completely new "Unfinished Handkerchief"?
Tokuda: "Unfinished Handkerchief" is something that takes me back to the beginning. Classics has a great feature that you can choose the typeface and embroider it in any color you like on the spot. I remember when I first started out, I had an idea to use this feature. I thought, "I haven't proposed this idea recently. I thought I'd like to propose "Unfinished Handkerchief" since it seems that customers can choose and add embroidery on the spot.
－How did you come up with "girls proﬁl" and "still life"?
Ms. Tokuda: I don't know. I thought it would be fun to use girls' hair as hair ornaments and accessories, so that was one idea. I also thought of a picture of a row of vases for "still life" as a final touch for arranging flowers, and then I thought of this one (still green) when it comes to vases. Like that (laughs).
I thought it would be fun if customers could do something with the vases, and it's a great feature of Classics that customers can choose their own vases and do it on the spot, rather than buying it and then being done with it. So, I would like to propose that again.
－You ordered from Mr. Tokuda earlier, right? How does it feel to do it yourself?
Mr. Tokuda, it's fun! It's fun. I wanted to do something weird because I thought it would be a waste of time, but (laughs) I might have ended up being safe just because I was going to do it. It's fun. （I love it. Also, embroidery is fascinating. It's amazing that you can create such cute motifs with such dense threads, instead of just drawing on them. It's not too precise, but there is obviously a thickness to the cloth, and the feeling is... I love embroidery.
－But I think it's been a while since I've seen one of Tokuda's pieces that says, "Burn. In "Unfinished Handkerchief," you said that you drew it with a mouse on purpose, and I think the awkwardness of it is also attractive.
Tokuda-san I think that the lack of skill is what makes the picture so good. It's like you bring in some kind of coincidence that you didn't aim for.
－Were "take care" and "story" also hand-drawn at first?
Tokuda: Yes, that's right. I always do it by hand. Whenever I had an idea, I would draw it. But, as is usually the case, I never exceed the first sketch. What is it? It never gets better. (Laughs) That's why, in the beginning, I was showing them exactly as I had done in the presentation. It was done exactly as it was. It's pretty funny, isn't it?
－So, it's pretty much a rough draft.
Tokuda: Yes, just as I imagined. I don't often go any further than that. In my mind, the first sketch is already the best.
－ HIKKOMIThe story is a fairy tale, isn't it? Did you always like them? Influenced by your children?
Ms. Tokuda: Yes, I did like them. When I was a child, I didn't know if I liked them or not, and I wasn't really aware of it, but when I became an adult, they became a bit popular, like "The Real Scary Grimm's Fairy Tales. I didn't read them, but when I saw their titles, I became interested in them, and when I read the Japanese translations of Andersen's stories, rather than the original picture books, they were really scary, or the contents were scary or instructive. For example, "Well, well, well," a word is used twice in succession, or "Ouch, ouch, ouch," etc. I was horrified by the way the words were used, and I thought it was an amazing world, and that's how I got hooked.
－I was kind of hooked on it.
Tokuda-san I thought it was a good motif.
－ Come to think of it, there was a "red string handkerchief" in the really beginning, and two people were tied together at a distance in that one too. Fate. But then I learned that it was also a scary story, and we discussed what we should do about it.
Tokuda: Yes, yes, there was, yes there was. (Laughs.) What should we do? (Laughs) We were like, "What are we going to do? There are many theories.
－In the end, we sold it. (Laughs.) (Laughs.) I don't know. (Laughter)
NONIIN" is a leisurely and lighthearted way.
－This is a completely different topic, but when you started your own company, you chose the company name "NONIIN. Was it because you went to school in Finland?
Mr. Tokuda: Well, I asked Mr. Kasai to name the company "NONIIN. When I retired. I wanted to name it after the person I respect the most. And after consulting with him, I felt that Scandinavia had been a part of my life since my days at Sun-Ad, perhaps from Mr. Kasai's point of view. I thought, "Well, that's Finnish. Finnish, regardless of the nonine, has an interesting sound, or rather, it has a cute sound. The sound of the language is cute.
－Wow. I see.
Mr. Tokuda When we were talking about it, Mr. Kasai said, "Finnish...let's think about it. That's the name I got.
－How did you feel when you first heard it?
Tokuda: I thought it was a perfect fit. It seems to be both laid-back and lighthearted.
－It's a strange sound, isn't it? Is "nonine" commonly used over there?
Tokuda: Yes, they used it. When class was over, I would close the textbook with a "noonin" sound. When the class was over, I would close the textbook with a "noonin" sound.
－Did you make that mark, Mr. Tokuda?
Mr. Tokuda (laughs) I asked Mr. Kasai to make the mark, but it was I who did the work. He told me to make it like this, so I got it, made it, and then he looked at it and we exchanged ideas, and then it was done.
－Oh, turtles, tortoises?
Mr. Tokuda: Yes, Mr. Kasai asked me, "What is your favorite animal? What is your favorite color? I told him that I liked turtles. I told him that I liked turtles.
－Turtles, you like them, don't you?
Mr. Tokuda: Yes, I would like to have a turtle. I don't have a turtle yet. There is such a tiny one. But they live a long time, so it would be a pity if they outlived me. (Laughs) I should leave him to my children. He's so calm, and his eyes are so dull! A land tortoise.
－(Laughs.) It's very Tokuda-san-like. (laughs) It's like Mr. Tokuda... I'll have to ask him to make something else.
Mr. Tokuda, by all means! You can ask me for a theme. I'll bring it plus something else.
－Then, of course, I would like to make a presentation with a tiny (laugh) beanpainting (laugh). I'd like to see it. I feel like I have heard a lot today. Thank you very much. Nonine, I mean.
Ms. Tokuda: Nonine. So, thank you very much.
After this, design tips, about life in Finland, about food... Fun time passed. I felt that lovely and beautiful designs are infused with a little bit of leisure and lightheartedness, just as I had imagined. At the same time, I also felt I caught a glimpse of his sincerity and uncompromising attitude toward craftsmanship. And he also likes scary stories. This time, I have not seen a handkerchief design that fills the screen for a long time, but I look forward to seeing another tiny but big happy handkerchief.
Interviewer: Sarimi Oya, Shigeru Goto (Classics the Small Luxury)
Note: Products designed by Yuko Tokuda will continue to be sold in stores after the exhibition ends. Please note that the availability of the products in the text may vary depending on the store and the time of the year.
1 Sun-Ad Angels: The project members of Classics the Small Luxury, an art director/designer group consisting of Kaoru Takai, Mariko Hikichi, and Yuko Tokuda of Sun-Ad Inc.
2 Ms. Kasai: Kaoru Kasai, art director and advisor to Sun-Ad Inc.
NONIIN YUKO TOKUDA
Designer, Art director Product design, Package design and branding 2020 set up design studio "NONIIN" 2004-2020 SUN-AD company limited, product, Original Flower vase " Still Green" is available at MoMA Design Store. Master of Art, Aalto University (formerly University of Art and Design Helsinki UIAH). Bachelor of Art, Musashino Art University.
Graduated from Musashino Art University, completed graduate studies at Helsinki University of Art and Design (now Aalto University), and worked in product design, product development, branding, and package design at Sun-Ad Inc. In 2020, he became independent and launched NONIIN. His original single-flower vase "Still Green" is sold in the store at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. Won the ADC Award in 2007. Won the Grand Prize of Japan Package Design Award in 2009. 2013 Japan Package Design Award Grand Prize. Winner, Japan Package Design Award, Silver Prize, 2016.