My sister recently sent me this cool birthday card.
It's a paper circle - about 7.5" (19cm) in diameter - with slits, and it turns into a basket of almost any shape. It can be a low candy bowl, a medium-tall fruit basket, or a tall vase cover, and anything in between.
It's as thin as regular copy paper, and yet strong enough to endure a lot of stretching and shrinking.
I was impressed by the beauty of the design and the manufacturing technology, but I loved the story behind this product even more.
My sister writes for a local edition of a major Japanese newspaper, and she did a story on a small paper factory in the suburbs of Tokyo. The factory - Fukunaga Print - has been operating for about 50 years, but as printers became widely accessible and printing orders decreased, the president realized that they had to evolve with the changing times. As the company could not longer depend on subcontracting, he decided to create original artistic products, and embarked on a collaboration with local artists. The company named this endeavor "Kami no Kousakujo" (meaning "Paper Workshop").
Now, they manufacture hundreds of products ranging from stationery such as postcards, folders and notebooks, to home decor items such as paper chairs and planters. Their products are sold online as well as in museums all over the world.
According to my sister who actually visited the factory, it's a very small facility with old-fashioned printing machines, and the workers even adjust the colors of the ink by hand.
Kudos to the president, Mr. Yamada, the skilled workers at Fukunaga Print, and the collaborating artists their ingenuity , business sense and perseverance!