Smoking Tools Woven Together by Designers and Craftsmen


A Wish to Create a Tool Giving Comfort to the Hands


I thought, this is probably why designers like Nobuo Inoue are craved.


The taste of a cigar changes just by dropping it. The taste goes bad. That is how delicate it is.
If the rolled leaf is compressed, the air path gets congested. That is why the taste goes bad.


This is the same for cigar cutters too. If the leaves close to the mouthpiece are compressed, the taste goes bad.
This is why there is a need for a cigar cutter that cuts smoothly, without any stress.


Even those calculations are included in Nobuo Inoue’s design.


In a craftsman’s point of view, how are these designs understood, and how are they created?


“I designed these goods because I wanted to better taste cigars” Nobuo Inoue


Urayama: Are there cases where the designer lays out designs to makes it easier for the craftsman to create the objects?
Inoue: That will never happen.
Design is made with usability and beauty, in other words, my intention and soul, so if I make considerations for the craftsmen, those foundations will break down.


Urayama: I thought there would be heated exchanges with the craftsmen.


Inoue: Yes, we do have those. I always show a very detailed design to the craftsmen, but I always get confident that I can make something good when they frown upon me (laughs).
Reactions like “this is difficult” or “this is impossible.”
After receiving that response, it becomes a joint work with the craftsman of how to overcome the difficulties.


Akitoshi Urayama and Nobuo Inoue in an Interview


Urayama: In the case of the cigar cutter, perhaps the response was that they have never created a scissor with such an angle on the blade.


Inoue: Yes, that’s right. While the craftsmen give responses like “this is not possible, this can’t be made,” at the same time, they are also thinking, “how would I make this?”
Their professionalism spirit as craftsmen is lit.
It’s their chance to show off their craftsmanship and ideas to overcome the impossible.


Urayama: I have seen the Nanbu Ironware ashtray prior to being designed by you, Mr. Inoue.
It was a clump of black ironware. It was a large ashtray, and it was the same as a common ceramic ashtray, but simply made with iron material.


Inoue: That most likely occurs when a craftsman creates things just with their technique.
For Nanbu Ironware, whether it is an iron pot, teapot or wind bell, the way to make it is by casting melted iron into a sand mold, and top it with a black finish. It is not the norm to partially polish like it is done with this ashtray.


Urayama: Is that because they are under the stereotype that they must make it black since that is the tradition?


Inoue: If you polish it, the raw iron will be revealed.
There are cases when the air bubbles come out as well. There are many factories that say “we can make this too” if it is prior to the mirror polishing.
The part I would like people to notice for this Nanbu Ironware ashtray is the mirror polishing done on the edges.
I made great care in designing this, and the craftsman’s level of technique can be seen in this finish.


Urayama: So it is design and function at the same time.
Since you can place the cigar rest anywhere on the mirror-polished rim with a magnet.


The designer throws the ball, and the craftsman accepts it. I nod in understanding.


Inoue: They say how tools are “a comfort to the hands”, right?
Tools, as a general basis, are used by hands.
When using the tool, I want the hands to be comforted. Not just come naturally, but comfort it. I feel that a tool of that level will never be lost interest, and be cared of for a long time.


Urayama: Ah, this Nanbu Southern Ironware ashtray is exactly that of a tool that gives comfort to the hands.
So it is design and function at the same time.
Since you can place the cigar rest anywhere on the mirror-polished rim with a magnet.


Inoue: I am doing design for people that can understand that sense of hand-comforting.


Hand-comforting means that the entire body is comfortable when using the tool


Urayama: This site is run by the Employment Advance Research Center.
“Craftsmen” are “creators”, but many people think that to become this, decades of experience and timeless encounters with the scolding boss during training is required.


Inoue: It is true that you need to achieve the techniques, but it is more important whether you like creating things. I like thinking of designs, so I became this profession.
Of course, it is not easily done.
In design, the job will not follow through unless 99 out of 100 people accept your design.


Urayama: That is the same for writers. There are people who ask to become apprentices because it seems fun.
They think they can do the job with talent. Of course, it’s not that easy.
It’s not “love = fun”. It’s “love = you can endure the difficult times”.
Because you love it, you can overcome the difficulties.


Inoue: That is the same for craftsmen. If you like creating things, and continue to make things that you enjoy making, you lose the point of view of whether the product will sell in the market. Only those who can overcome the difficulties of “I can’t” and “impossible” can create things that can be sold.


Inquiry:General Incorporated Foundation of Employment Advance Research Center
contact form or +81 (0)3 6550 9516