Design Sketches by Norie Matsumoto
'What I have always wanted is, a pencil sharpener for three sizes capable of sitting on a desk and with a compartment to receive the shavings' by Lord Foster
I had a meeting at Lord Foster's office as my starting point for this project.
I met Mike Holland who is the head of industrial design and spoke about my initial ideas, which was to use a solid timber to create interesting shapes and show the strong presence of the object on the desk. During the meeting he was suggesting to develop more options which could be simpler but more functional. He also recommended that I design several shapes which I did and included a cylinder and cube.
I then had a phone meeting with Lord Foster and Sean from Benchmark to develop the sharpener design. The phone meeting was very clear and we decided to use American tulipwood to make four simple and strong shapes; cube, tetrahedral, sphere and a cylinder. During the conversation Sean explained the material information about tulipwood, which is a comparatively cheap material in relation to other American hardwoods. Additionally, tulipwood often has a yellow and olive green pattern which Lord Foster liked for the marbling effect. We also discussed adding a tray for each sharpener mirroring the shape of it, i.e. a spherical sharpener will have a round tray. The tray should then have enough space for many colour pencils.
The last meeting at his office was more about finalising the details of volume of each sharpeners and tray sizes. We also decided where the sharpeners should sit on the trays because keeping the top surface without sharpener is also keeping the object shapes more clear. We also discussed the finishing of the brass sharpeners which is matt finish coated by wax. At this meeting, I have found that my thoughts were smaller than his expectations and I realised that he needs the sharpeners for colour pencils as well as normal which are many more different colours and sizes. The final location of each sharpener seems irregular but it was found by the inside constructions so that each one is not closed and there is enough space in between for the shavings to come out.
During making week I worked with Liam Treanor who assisted me in the making of the sharpeners. We talked through the problems and found solutions together. My final design continued to change during the making week because small adjustments had a knock on effect on other parts. The difficulties of the changes were that they didn’t affect just one of the pieces, they affected the collection. In terms of the making process, the trickiest one was the tetrahedral shape. It has simple, angled corners but they soon become very fragile when using them with wood. Therefore, machining the corners needed to be very carefully done. All corners were mitre jointed and Liam found a way of making the beautiful patterns match. For the cylindrical and spherical sharpeners, the shape was made by wood turning. It was very beautifully crafted work and I really love the result of the shape. Wood turning is a very common method for creating shapes. I discovered that it can make such a beautiful wooden object which I really enjoyed through the making camp.
Finally, I needed to find the location for brass sharpeners on each side. Each sharpener needed to be specifically located to ensure they did not touch each other inside of the sharpeners. The brass sharpeners have the same surface shape as the wooden body, so they have nice flush surface. The locations are not levelled but it holds an interesting position which is like a pattern. I also needed to decide where the best place to put the sharpeners on each tray was. I decided to put them near edges because it fitted well and the tray then had space for more pencils. The place for the sitting sharpener has a hollow on the tray, so it keeps the presence of the sharpener when they are removed from the tray.
It was the first time I had every used tulipwood as a final material. I’ve used tulip wood for a mock up before because it is a cheap material but it is a stable wood which works very well for testing construction matters. After this project I realised American tulipwood is a very beautiful material which does have a strong colour pattern and a very smooth surface. I started to wonder why I haven’t used it as a final material before and am glad I’ve realised its potential.