Fukutoshi Ueno is a Brisbane designer and ‘man on a mission’. In the first half of 2011 he’s already re-exhibited furniture inspired by Akira Isogawa’s kimono designs, pitched a public art project for Redland Hospital, taken part in London Design Week and started a fusion line with his next door neighbour Lydia Pearson.
To Fukutoshi, affectionately known as Toshi, design is as simple as having a chat over the back fence in his Bohemian suburb Hill End, or observing people using space when he’s invited to a lunch party.
“Part of my responsibility as a designer is firstly to make things that are functional, and also to make objects that have a long life. The kind of things your kids want to inherit,” Toshi says. The designer says he cringes at the idea of designing things that might get tossed out.
“I strive to make beautiful things, I could not stand to make things that had a disposable life, like Ikea,” he says.
For the Japanese designer who’s called Brisbane home for the last 15 years, finding inspiration in life is part and parcel of his profession. Urbane, surprising and essential, he seeks out design ideas when visiting friends homes by looking at the real way in which people live.
He accredits his recent collaborations with two of Australia’s most prominent fashion designers to the intersection of his favourite pass-times and his local network.
“In 2001 I was introduce to Akira at a lunch party. A friend of mine knew that I appreciated the beautiful designs of Akira and introduced us,” he says. The rest is history.
Toshi’s Dresscode project with Akira Isogawa in 2008 brought him to national prominence as an emerging designer and still gets him interest from buyers and galleries. Recently re-visiting the project has had a good impact. His orange Dreescode design (pictured) went to London Design Week on the 20th September.
Toshi’s next collaboration will be an evolution of his Bambi clothes stand developed in late 2010. Now in the third round of production meetings with the designers Easton Pearson, Toshi says the dynamic fashion duo have brought a myriad of great ideas to the process of conceiving a soft furnishings and fashion line together.
Though Toshi is tight-lipped about the Easton Pearson collaboration, he says he is eager to surprise people in his next phase and to break away from being just known for Dresscode.
“Product design is a mind game, I want to show people that I am not confined by my Japanese heritage and that I can work with more than one element,” he says.
And if that’s the case then Bambi frame he developed late last year (pictured below) will certainly be a good place to start.
Toshi’s unlikely appropriation of the much-loved Disney character for domestic furniture design makes the mind boggle.
He says it was a response to seeing how people throw their clothes around in their bedrooms.
“I wanted to design something useful and I also wanted to invite people to return to fond memories of childhood, perhaps to the first time they experienced the grace and charm of a deer, or the first time they saw the endearing character Bambi in the animated Disney movie. Right now people here in Brisbane, people everywhere really, are concerned with using recycled materials, so my Bambi frame is sustainable, it is my first product using 100% recyclyed paper,” Toshi says.
Brisbane’s Spiro Grace Art Rooms have recently exhibited Toshi’s Dresscode collection. The limited edition set of six pieces made from high density acrylic have recently been sold, taken to galleries and sent off to Design Exhibitions around the world.