Kyushu, Japan’s third largest island, has traditionally been known for its craftsmanship and artistic spirit. Scattered across Kyushu are many workshops where specialist makers hone their craft to perfection — from ceramics and paper to tea, textiles and much more. Crafts are passed down from generation to generation, but are now in danger of disappearing under the pressure of globalisation, automation and an ageing population. UNA Laboratories was established in 2019 with the aim of developing Kyushu’s craft economy as an engine for regional revitalisation. The organisation initiates projects to tap into international markets for Kyushu’s makers, develop new products and attract cultural tourism. In 2020, UNA Labs approached us to create a project that would generate attention for Kyushu and its makers among a creative audience in the Netherlands.
Kyushu Crafts Club
We developed an exhibition and brand concept, the Kyushu Crafts Club. The Kyushu Crafts Club presents a young generation of makers who are readying Japanese crafts for the twenty-first century while staying true to tradition. You can see, feel and taste how they transform fireworks into a higher art form, unleash a green revolution in Japanese indigo production and use centuries-old washi paper for modern design — from printing to clothing.
To make the project as COVID-proof as possible, the Kyushu Crafts Club combines an online and offline exhibition. We developed a web app, kyushucrafts.club, which documents the stories and shows the products of the fourteen makers. The digital platform also served as a home base for a series of exclusive virtual tours visiting the makers live in their workshops on Kyushu. The online platform will continue to exist after the project and will be the starting point for future projects.
The pop-up exhibition took place in December 2020 at Club Shop in Amsterdam. The exhibition was a sensory experience, immersing visitors in the history, landscape and makers of Kyushu. Visitors could see the products with their own eyes and taste special tea from Kyushu. One evening, the exhibition was transformed into a Japanese takeaway restaurant, where chefs from Kyushu served donburi.