“Everything is a sculpture,” said Isamu Naguchi, who put this belief into practice with his Akari lighting collection. Born in the US to a Japanese father and an American mother, he studied with modernist sculptor Constantin Brí¢ncusi in Paris for two years in the 1920s before returning to the States to design stage sets for Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. By the time he produced the iconic Noguchi table for Herman Miller in 1947, he had already become a distinguished sculptor in his own right. When traveling in Japan in 1951, he was asked to create a paper lamp for export to help revitalize the paper manufacturing industry there. His Akari (meaning “brightness” in Japanese) Light Sculptures are Noguchi’s modernist response to lanterns used by night fishermen in Japan and represent the traditional form stripped down to its bones, all color and extraneous detail discarded. Because the designs were made of little more than rice paper and wire, they were inexpensive to produce and affordable. Ozeki & Co. in Gifu, Japan, has been manufacturing them by hand since 1951–the lamps are packed flat for easy shipping.
Five to Buy
Object Lessons columnist Megan Wilson is the owner of Ancient Industries and curator of the Remodelista 100, a collection of essential everyday objects presented in the Remodelista book. Watch for her column every Tuesday, and have a look at her past lessons on iconic designs, including the Eames Lounge Chair and Kaj Franck’s Teema Dinnerware. We featured her Connecticut shop in our post Purveyor of the Practical and the Timeless.