Washi is a type of old-school paper made in Japan. Plant pulp and water are mixed and collected on screens, and after drying, fresh sheets of the stuff are pulled off. Though tissue-like in appearance, washi is reasonably tough, making its long production time worth the wait.
It's typically made in sheets, which can subsequently be pasted together to make three-dimensional shapes; you've undoubtedly seen it rendered into lampshades. But a company in western Japan called Taniguchi Aoya Washi has figured out how to make the stuff 3D from the get-go, right out of the bath. This "Seamless Three-Dimensional Washi" eliminates the exposed edges that come from connecting multiple sheets, and TAW is the only company in Japan that knows how to make the stuff.
Washi can be dyed different colors. But during a recent collaboration between Taniguchi Aoya Washi and design firm Nendo, experimentation revealed that they could create a three-dimensional washi form where the inside is one color, the outside, another. Thus, for the first time, they were able to create a washi lampshade with a white, reflective inner surface and a colored outer surface.
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The resultant Bi-Color Washi lamps are thus a perfect example of what good industrial design can accomplish: Creating a unique, beautiful product by experimenting with materials and exploiting a company's competitive manufacturing advantage. Not to mention, dealing with some practicalities. "As requested by the client," Nendo writes, "the shades can be stacked to keep distribution and storage costs to a minimum."