Katachi: The Center of Traditional Japanese DesignKatachiware Japanese Style Tableware
Katachi is rooted in Japanese design. It is the essence that signifies the form, symmetry, and workmanship of traditional craft.
In the Western world, people often associate minimalism with Japanese design. However, that is not always the case! Katachi can also represent symmetry and workmanship. The Japanese aesthetic is all about functionality. It’s not enough to have an aesthetically pleasing product if it doesn’t work as well as it should. Katachi is made of materials that have played an important role in Japanese life for centuries: wood, bamboo, stone, fibre, metal, earth.
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How is katachi expressed in Japanese design?
Katachi’s spatial arrangement refers to all aspects of life—home, garden, and art—in Japan. The concept of Katachi “is the natural function of design, that which holds together and becomes an integral part of the environment.” The organization of traditional Japanese design is based on the principle of space, and it is inherent in Katachi’s presentation of beautiful, unique items—not only used traditional products but also objects created from an all-new material. Katachi is not merely the rebranding of products and is not the mere presentation of past research findings. Rather, it is the introduction of contemporary products made from an innovative material that can provide new functions for the entire home.
In Japanese design, there are two basic categories, Kodama (objects) and katachi (the spirit behind). The smallest Kodama includes clay pots and bone cups that are used to drink tea and eat Japanese food, and these objects are the symbol of Japanese culture. These small “geisha” elements have a very rich history, as they are not just containers but physical representations of important Japanese ideas like life and death, duty and pleasure. These same ideas are expressed in the katachi, the spirit behind the object. The most basic katachi is a simple object—a piece of wood, a piece of stone, or a bamboo mat—but katachi can also be used to tell a story. A katachi would become the basis of a story, and be used to represent the character or personality of the creator.
The role of materials in katachi
True to its roots, katachi embodies the traditional Japanese aesthetic through its use of raw materials whose original use was both functional and symbolic. A heady fragrance known as the “Kuni” exuded by lacquered stoneware comes to mind. A bento box that looks as if it is made of bamboo. A simple Zen stone inlaid with an intricate pattern. These are just a few of the most common objects seen in katachi. Sustainable Design Katachi is not just about the appearance of beauty. Made of natural materials, katachi make effective contributions to the environment, as well as to human well-being. Katachi materials are soft and malleable, durable and long-lasting. Your views on design are much like a waterfall.
Materiality, its relationship to form, and texture define katachi. Each item is selected because it is well-suited to its function and aesthetic, and because the beauty of its form, function, and aesthetic does not distract from that of its material. The pairing of raw materials with their Western counterparts plays an essential role in creating katachi. Rather than emulating Western aesthetics with “Japanese” craftsmanship, katachi is a hybrid of East and West—an ode to ancient traditional craftsmanship, while still remaining true to Western aesthetics. detail view of a katachi item For further discussion of the materials and their uses, see the stories of Giho and Ryu.
In this discussion, we attempted to synthesize the various forms of Japanese design into the aforementioned word: Katachi. But there are several other, related terms. The second term is Meido. Meido is “eclectic-ish,” in the sense of being an original design that’s not necessarily functional. Meido is also a form of Japanese art, design, or poetry, and it incorporates elements of all three. It is often described as the visual equivalent of a traditional Japanese song or poem. Similarly, shikishi is the combination of ornamental styles and structures that compose decorative objects such as hangings, screens, scrolls, and so forth. Of course, there is no universally accepted term for all forms of Japanese design.
Let’s pause and enjoy its changing nature. Once we have mastered this art, we can build the waterfall into something truly magnificent.