• Report
Smart Craft Studio Hida 2016 Recap of the 2nd Week: Can wood become programmable?

Hidakuma inc. and Loftwork inc. organized a design camp titled as “Smart Craft Studio Hida 2016” from May 28 to June 20 in a theme of “Craftmanship x IoT” in order to think about how the design thinking can bring an impact to the society by inviting students and professors from universities in NY, Toronto, Taiwan and Japan. Students learned about the feature of wood, joinery technique, IoT and FAB. We will look back those 23 days of input and output in a weekly report. This is for the 2nd week. (English and Chinese follows Japanese)

Can wood become programmable?

One of the courses in the Smart Craft Studio is Physical Computing. It was taught by Shigeru Kobayashi, who has many years of experience building prototypes. Skills taught include MESH and IFTTT to start out, integrating Raspberry Pi and EPS connectivity module, and finally connecting with Amazon Echo. While each learning and each skill is easy, stitching all the pieces together is extremely challenging. Without the guidance of Mr. Kobayashi, students would have to spend a lot of time experimenting on their own.

Physical Computing class

Carpentry tools are extension of your body

To develop the manual skills to use tools for woodworking, student can start by building small wood block puzzles. In Mr. Kenji Wada’s beginner carpentry course, students learn to use saws, chisels, hammers and rulers. Mr. Wada is a furniture designer. He has his own design studio and brand, creating customized furnitures for clients. In the first class, each student creates two wood blocks and assembles them. In the second day, students need to build six blocks. Chisels have sharp blades. Mr. Wada repeatedly reminds the students not to point the chisel at anyone else, and to make sure that all fingers are behind the blade at all time. In order to build small wood blocks, students only need to tap with the hammer gently using the wrist. There is no need for hard swings. Safety is the first priority. Carefully marking the cut lines would improve the precision of the products. When six blocks are assembled, minute errors in each block compound into big problems. Each error needs to be corrected gradually until all pieces fit together. Dexterity with the tools is a factor in the outcome. However, patience is paramount.


Mr. Kenji Wada demonstrates carpentry tools

Sketch by one of the students

Other than hand tools, FabCafe Hida is fully equipped with digital technologies. There is a laser cutter, a 3D printer, an UV ink jet printer, and a CNC mill. The most intriguing machine is the UV ink jet printer, which paints color on any flat surface. The 3D printer not only empower the students to become more creative, it also allows the building blocks to be recycled.


Clever Designs of Traditional Wood Blocks with 3D Printing

Building Beam and Column

Mr. Kazuya Tanaka and his team explains how beams and columns are put together, during the second visit to Tanaka Construction. Holes have to be notched out of the timbers that are used for the beams. Because each tree is unique, the process cannot be precisely planned on computer. Carpenters use rulers and traditional tools to carefully locate the cut. The process demands team synergy. Since the two pairs of columns and beams are carved by different carpenters, everyone on the team must share a common mental blue print. There must be no margin of error. High level of focus is required.

Mr. Kazuya Tanaka and his team explains how beams and columns are put together

Design Studio Time

Starting week two, there is more studio time for the design team. This is the height of team work activities. Designers are bombarded with information and sensory inputs after arriving in Hida. They learn about wood, computation, local culture, interact with local residents, walk in the forest, and use their own free time to formulate observations that can only be understood by foreigners in culture shock. This phase of germination creates the energy and sets up the framework of inquiry for the next phases. In order to refine their thoughts and ideas, they presented their ideas at Hida sangyo and had intense discussions with professors, and also consulted with resident experts gathered at FabCafe Hida. Mr Kazuya Tanaka and other craftmen would intermittently stopped by the cafe  to provide advices on the design and feature of wood.

Group Discussion Time

Team discussion and idea presentation at Hida sangyo

An interview with a president of the forestry venture company

Fun Activities

One of the most entertaining guest of the camp was GOCCO. The company brought a virtual currency system to test the market viabilities of new products. In the game setting, players are divided into different teams. Each team needs to sell a product, and uses virtual currency to buy other products while assuming the identity of a special virtual character (i.e. an old man, administrational officer, 24 years old woman). The goal is to sell as many products as possible. The products’ viabilities are determined by the final tally. This was the only occasion during the camp in which designers are challenged to convert their ideas into real products. Although the context is virtual, the designers nevertheless experience the grind of the real world.
In addition to this activity, the Kamioka High School Robotic Club staged a bot fight with a pair of powerful bots in FabCafe Hida during the weekend.

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GOCCO Virtual Currency Workshop


Learning Japanese esthetic

On Saturday, we had Sado, Japanese traditional tea ceremony and Kado, Japanese traditional flower arrangement per a request of Brandon who has prototyped the “Ikebana Chandelier” at the end. The team originally got inspired by the Japanese garden and reached to the “Wabi-Sabi” concept from where the Japanese esthetic and culture deeply rooted, but struggled to fully understand the idea. Through the life in Hida, Ichirin-zashi which is a single-flower vase took their eyes and they thought of presenting the Ikebana in their installation. Then, here comes the Ikebana workshop.


We requested Ms. Mishima to give lecture about Sado and Kado to about 15 students who never heard those words. Starting from the introduction of Sen no Rikyu, they watched the demonstration by her apprentice. Then they actually experienced making a cup of tea and learned how to behave to drink it and eat sweets. Some students looked in agony in getting down on their knees and they had tea in a posture of half-standing position.



We had Kado workshop right after Sado experience. There are two different course prepared, one is Kenzan which is a pin-holder in a flat vase and another is a vase. Students could choose whichever they wanted to try. When they saw the demonstration by Ms. Mishima, they gazed intently.

Brandon who has requested the Ikebana experience (right side) is trying the vase version.

Billy from the same team. He tried the pin-holder version.

Ikebana in pin-holder

Interim Review

In the afternoon, each team has conducted the interim presentation based on the below questions.

  1. Discipline: What disciplines/ mediums is engaged by your design
  2. Program/Occupation: How will your project be used or occupied
  3. Audience/Context: For whom is this kind of work created? Where is it experienced? What are the cultural, political, aesthetic, social circumstance critical to your work.
  4. Precedents: Name 3-5 works that define the area of design your project aligns with.
  5. Technique: How will your manipulate form and material effect
  6. Research/Question: Given the research you have conducted, what is the concept question you hope to investigate through your project?

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Kumiki curry party at a Japanese traditional house

On this night, we visited an old house with an over 150 year’s history owned by a young couple, Mr. and Mrs. Asakura who runs a shop where you can find different folk handicraft potteries and tools collected around the nation. They moved this house to their favorite land in the mountain area of Kokufu. There, we had “Kumiki” (joinery) curry party. You can make Kumiki rice with a 3D printed mould and put curry on it. 


Kumiki curry

The intense 2nd week ended with this special Japanese traditional experience; having the “traditional Kumiki curry” in the old Japanese house surrounded by nature, under beautiful stars, listening to the sound of frogs, having good breeze…

Continue to the 3rd week report.