Ishinomaki Laboratory began as a workshop for the local community in a coastal area of Ishinomaki-city, Miyagi prefecture, which was devastated by the tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.
At the beginning, Ishinomaki Laboratory was simply a common utility area for locals to conduct their own work, with lumber and repair materials provided by volunteers, mainly designers in Tokyo.
Assisting locals with their DIY activities, Ishinomaki Laboratory also lent a hand restoring local shops. One of those, the Fukko Bar (in Japanese, “Recovery Bar”), has proven extremely popular with the locals.
A community space aptly named IRORI (in Japanese, “open fireplace”) was also opened with the aim of development of the area through close communication of the locals.
Some of Ishinomaki Laboratory’s core activities include running a design workshop to provide training for mastering design skills and putting ideas into shape, as well as providing regular technical guidance for local high school students and children, all for a better future. Around 40 benches were manufactured as part of the latter activity, used for outdoor movie screenings during the summer festival in the year of the earthquake.
In Autumn of that year, Herman Miller, a global furniture manufacturer, joined the assistance program in areas affected by the earthquake and worked with Ishinomaki Laboratory to run a furniture workshop for locals, with furniture constructed in the workshop offered free of charge.
The true value and appeal of “handmade” products was rekindled through these activities, with various design ideas leading to the establishment of the Ishinomaki Laboratory label to market the products beyond the local community.
Product designs are supplied by young qualified and proven designers, and the lineup of user-friendly indoor and outdoor furniture continues to grow. Despite the generally tough employment situation in the area, there are now five full-time employees working under the supervision of chief Takahiro Chiba, former sushi chef. A range of handcrafts such as tote bags have also been added to the lineup – the result of collaboration between local workshops and designers. These handcrafts are produced by women living in nearby temporary houses.
These activities have drawn much attention, with Ishinomaki Laboratory being awarded the coveted 2012 Good Design Award, a comprehensive design evaluation and commendation system in Japan running since 1957.
Japanese and international media outlets have also covered Ishinomaki Laboratory as a promising “New Business Model”.
Ishinomaki Laboratory has taken a positive step forward as the world’s first DIY label, with the belief that the potential of DIY and its associated spirit of independence can help broaden horizons. Combined with unlimited design flexibility, the ultimate goal is to energise people and society – and life as a whole.
Born with a volunteering spirit, Ishinomaki Laboratory is confident that products made with creativity have the power to move people and change their mindset. The hope is that people around the world rediscover their own innate creativity, and enrich life and society for a more fulfilling future.