fluoro speaks with TRUCK Furniture

fluoro spoke to the founders of TRUCK Furniture, Tokuhiko Kise and Hiromi Karatsu about their inspiration, travels, the city of Osaka Japan and their love for designing the kind of furniture they want, regardless of fashion.

Aspiring to create pieces that can be used for a long time, there is a sense of respect toward the treatment of materials across all businesses that are hosted by TRUCK. The passion Tok and Hiromi have for their craft is apparent, as they share an intimate insight into their story and their surprising set of inspirations taken from Australia.

(f) Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be making furniture.

(TK) When I was 18, still in high school, a magazine article about a school with a furniture-making program caught my interest. I went to see what was going on there and decided to enroll.

After completing the one-year course, I returned to my hometown of Osaka and was hired at a small company that made chairs.  I worked there for three and a half years before starting my own furniture workshop.

Six years after going into business for myself I met the woman who would become my wife. Hiromi was an illustrator. We started to consider moving our operation to a location that could serve as not only as a workshop but also as a place where we could display our products and connect directly with potential customers.  We eventually found something that met our needs — a whole building in downtown Osaka.

(f) The TRUCK Furniture studio hosts other small businesses, including Bird Café, tell us about the current space.

(TK) Once we bought the building in downtown Osaka, we set out to plan our ideal workshop, showroom, and living space.  The design process took a year.  Then we began construction — four buildings at once:  the showroom/furniture factory, a leather goods workshop, our house, and a café. And, you know, we needed the café since there was nowhere nearby to get a decent cup of coffee!!

There is actually a story as to why we chose the building in downtown Osaka…

I liked the town of Noosa in Queensland, Australia.  I went there and thought I need to live here!  So I visited once or twice a year, maybe eight times total.  One thing Hiromi and I admired about Noosa was its greenery – trees everywhere!  We envisioned a life surrounded by big trees, but we were living in the tree-deprived city of Osaka!

For six years we searched for our ideal location, and even considered moving to the countryside where there were plenty of trees but a scarcity of people!  So we actually ended up coming full-circle, finding our ideal location right in the heart of Osaka!  There weren’t many trees, of course, so we resolved to plant them ourselves!

(f) There is quite a personal approach to the books, the furniture and the workspace, do you and Hiromi work together to create them?

(TK) Hiromi and I are constantly together and compliment each other with our different strengths and roles in operation.

When it comes to conceiving a new piece of furniture, both Hiromi and I look at the design from the customer’s point of view, but I must also relate to each design from an engineering standpoint – Hiromi is able to take a purely end-user perspective.

Hiromi also handles aspects like interior planning of our sales area and photography for our books, catalogs and website.

With the passion we share for furniture, even our everyday conversations often turn to ideas about tables, chairs, and sofas.  We seem to have a sense of mutual understanding even without a lot of words being exchanged and our communication helps us with design concepts that can lead to me building a prototype.

If I unveil a prototype that pleases Hiromi, she will reward me with a smile!  But my prototypes don’t always get one of her coveted smiles! I guess I should be grateful for such an honest critic!

(f) What are you inspired by?

(TK) Travel inspires me.  Every place offers something distinct when it comes to architecture and other types of design.  I do not let my perceptions be colored by things like brand status or historical significance.  I like what I like.

I love Noosa for its fantastic Oceanside, and great surfing. I remember being fond of grocery shopping in Noosa with a friend of mine who is a well-known chef. We’d find all sorts of wonderful ingredients to bring back to the place we were staying and cook up the most delicious dinners!

I did not go to Noosa intending to find inspiration for my work.  But I now realise how much I have been influenced by time spent in that place.  For instance, I serve Scotch fillet steak from Australia at Bird Café!

(f) Are you inspired by Osaka?

(TK) I feel an affinity toward Osaka because it is my hometown and what I find most appealing about Osaka is its food and great people. Osakan people also have a great sense of humor!

(f) What does the future hold for TRUCK Furniture?

(TK) Hiromi and I are content with our setup the way it is now. We’ve turned down offers to open showrooms in other parts of Japan. Our present size just feels right for us.

We are definitely not interested in outsourcing production to China or elsewhere, however large the demand gets.

Hiromi and I can keep a direct eye on every part of our operation and we can personally uphold the highest standards of quality.

We have carefully handpicked each of our employees – the five people at Bird Café and the 14 at TRUCK Furniture.  Each member of our staff brings his or her own special character to our company. They are all wonderful individuals, and we love every one of them like family.

www.truck-furniture.co.jp

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