One of the most important things I learnt in my Design studies is that everything starts with a project and it is better for this project to start slowly. After hundreds of sketches on restaurant bills and air tickets, finally I managed to gather my best ideas in this drawing.
Very cheekily, I took the courage and met Masakuni 3rd in Japan to propose my idea. I used the photos of a prototype I had made in the past to show him how I wanted to improve the most important parts of the future tool. Unfortunately, the prototypes had been stolen some months before.
I was quite sure that I would be rejected, so I explained him my ideas very shyly. He did not talk much, but asked me for 2 things: my drawings and some months to start to prepare a prototype. That was the first Masakuni prototype, on which we focussed to try the best steel alloys.
It is difficult to me to describe what I felt when I opened the awaited parcel from Masakuni with the real prototype inside. Since that far day I have never moved without my prototype. Any occasion was good to study how to improve every single centimetre.
One of the several drawings realized during a long wait at an airport. Ergonomics became my fixation. The idea of the hammer, flip and upside-down use started to develop.
I finally went back to Japan and during a long and cold winter day, Masakuni 3rd and I spent several hours to discuss even the smallest detail. It was not easy because there were many technical obstacles to overcome and the uncertainties were even more.
Perhaps not in a very Japanese manner I fully exploited the collection of the best Masakuni tools to explain how to combine in a single tool tens of production methods and details contained in many existing pieces.
During such an ambitious project it is always important to consider the project development in every detail. Before taking the next step those taken so far are analyzed again and again, then all the prototypes and drawings are discussed over and over. There are also confrontations!
The position of each finger was studied thoroughly. I spent the days watching my students’ hands and how different types of hands touched different tools, finger by finger.
Using a computer we drew all the sketches of the future ICHIBAN and whenever I travelled I always carried several printed copies of those projects to add new ideas and changes. My work never ended, because a good idea needs to be technically feasible as well.
I received new prototypes, all realized exclusively by hand by a couple of experienced Masakuni artisans. Each prototype required 3 days of work. The grip was changed, tested and counter-tested several times and small successes were achieved as a new prototype was realized.
Only to realize ICHIBAN point we had to find unique machines and import them to Japan in record time. Now differences were a matter of millimetres.
Despite being the smallest part in ICHIBAN, the rivet required the hardest work.
Only after tens of tests, a perfect balance between the size and the type of alloy used enabled us to find the rivet which could help you cut large-diameter branches and wire.
Even all the aesthetical details were included in the strict functionality and ergonomics criteria of ICHIBAN. We knew since the beginning that a nice object could be used with more pleasure and a technically perfect tool could give the performances which are expected from a product aiming at excellence.
All the materials, even the silk lining in the wooden box, were chosen among the different proposals and we selected a special type of very rich Japanese silk, where, however, it was rather easy to print on.
I started to work on the wooden box design shortly after receiving the first prototype. The greatest artisan of Japanese wooden boxes is an old friend of Masakuni 3rd and we managed to persuade him to realize ICHIBAN box, rigorously made by hand as well.
Sergio Tornaghi is one of the best still-life photographers in Italy and we called him for the shooting of the first ICHIBAN prototype. His accurate study of how the lights hit ICHIBAN metal body really inspired me on how to redefine many small details.
First advertising page with Sergio Tornaghi’s photo.
Second advertising page.
Third advertising page.
Fourth advertising page.
During the world bonsai congress in Puerto Rico in July 2009 Masakuni 3rd flew from Japan to introduce ICHIBAN to the world. For me and for the whole bonsai world it was really exciting to share that moment with the great artisan who spent his life working on bonsai tools.
At ICHIBAN stand in Puerto Rico this new bonsai tool managed to overcome all scepticisms and was a great success. Every ICHIBAN box was personally autographed by Masakuni 3rd for the occasion.