“What do the Italians and the Japanese have in common? The sense of beauty and the passion for well-made things.” So says Kaori Shiina, a Japanese designer who has lived in Milan for 20 years (she took her first career steps in the historic studio of De Pas, D’Urbino, Lomazzi), who together with Riccardo Nardi, her companion in life and work, has invented a brand that mixes the world of crafts with that of design. Where Italy and Japan share knowledge and values.

“It was not difficult. The Japanese are in love with Italy. I’m a good example: when I came to Europe at the age of 22, to learn about its culture and treasures, when I got to Rome I understood I was at home, and that I would have to return to Italy. To live and to work.”

Kaori smiles at the memory, but only with her eyes, with that Japanese knack for measured emotional expression. Then she adds, choosing her words carefully: “Italy and Japan are very similar countries. They share beauty, poetry, refinement: of course there are different aesthetic approaches, but they are complementary. In short, the fascination is mutual, above all in the area of unique, timeless products.”

“This is why we decided to create Hands on Design, our new business venture,” says Nardi. “For some time we were feeling a bit constrained by the design profession. We wanted to shift into action, to directly discover (and rediscover) the finest masters and the finest skills, putting Italy and Japan together.”

How? Thanks to a new alliance between artistic crafts and design. The idea is simple: from Tokyo to Milan, the designer-entrepreneur couple began to patiently search the territory to find the best artisans and match them with designers open to interaction.

“We wanted to create a different, innovative formula that would put craftsmen and designers on the same plane. Above all, we wanted to give the world of crafts a new dignity, creating market opportunities. In other words, the idea was to bring out the excellence of know-how, often relegated to a ‘little antique world’ with no future.”

So 20 designers have worked in close contact with 20 master craftspeople to create a collection of timeless objects for the home. Timeless, because they have been imagined starting with the ability of the hands and the creative force of materials. Which know no boundaries.

Text by Laura Ragazzola

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The designer-entrepreneurs Shiina+Nardi in the courtyard of a historic building in Milan where they have opened the showroom of their new brand Hands on Design. The Ovarin stool is by Giulio Iacchetti, who worked with Haute Material + Tumar (photo David Zanardi).
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Dervish vases by Kan Architetti, produced by Soffieria.
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Porcelain condiment set by Kan Architetti, produced by Risogama.
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The Bugatti lamp by Shiina+Nardi ‘woven’ in copper by the artisan Kanaami Tsuji.
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The ‘forge’ in Valtellina Haute Material crafts wood with the most traditional techniques of Made in Italy.
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The ‘forge’ in Valtellina.
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The ‘forge’ in Valtellina.
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The renowned glass murrines.
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The renowned glass murrines.
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L’artigiano Ercole Moretti nel suo laboratorio veneziano dove si lavora il celebre vetro murrinico.
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The Japanese craftsman Kanaami Tsuji making his creations in copper wire, based on a very old working technique.
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Kanaami Tsuji creations in copper wire.
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Kanaami Tsuji creations in copper wire.
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Shuji Nakagawa works.
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Shuji Nakagawa, an historic name of the Japanese crafts tradition, works with wood.
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Shuji Nakagawa works.
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Risogama works.
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Risogama, an historic name of the Japanese crafts tradition, works with porcelain.
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Risogama works.