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How can furniture design encourage self-acceptance?

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A table which can be purposefully shattered and put back together has been designed by a Brunel University London graduate, in an exploration of the psychological influence of our everyday objects and the potential for product design to aid self-acceptance.

Brunel Design student Masayuki Kishi’s marble coffee table was inspired by Kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with gold lacquer in a way that incorporates the item’s breakage and repair as part of its valued history.

The project has been designed as a symbol of self-acceptance: our own ‘repairs’ should not be disguised but remembered and perhaps, instead, celebrated. The breaking and restoring of the marble, its physical transformation, is an allegory that mirrors our own journey toward psychological transformation in order to bring about self-acceptance.

The concept table - which was recently on display as part of the Brunel students’ final-year design project showcase in central London, Made in Brunel - consists of a round white Carrara marble top and black etched aluminum support.

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Masayuki proposes the table to be transformed personally, inviting users to break and restore the white marble top themselves within an in-store workshop. This activity could be completed individually, or as a group with family members and friends.

He explains: “I feel that we derive our unique characteristics from what society observes to perhaps be undesirable. If everybody perfectly embodied the ideal, everybody would become identical.

“It was important for me to create an almost surreal kind of experience, a journey that can inspire people to reinterpret their experiences and think of something new.”

When considering an object that can aid toward the mental state of self-acceptance, two elements were essential to Masayuki. One was a social function that enabled interaction and meaningful conversation. The other was a kind of visual language that conveyed a helpful narrative and could embody the meanings associated with celebrating our strengths, as well as embracing what could also be felt as undesirable. 

The form and materials for the table were carefully chosen to reference cultural icons that can build a narrative. Different kinds of iconography were woven together, from the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi to classicism and the Renaissance.

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Masayuki adds: “I specifically chose white Carrara marble specifically to reference the material used to carve the Statue of David. The block of marble from which David was ultimately carved was twice discarded by other sculptors due to its mediocre quality and then decades later it was used by Michelangelo to become a symbol of the ideal. Incidentally, the material for my table was carved out of an offcut from a local supplier.”

Masayuki chose a circular shape for the marble as a reference to the full moon. He explains that according to wabi-sabi aesthetic (the Japanese worldview of embracing the imperfect), the full moon can be better appreciated when obscured by clouds or the earth’s shadow. The table’s three legs support a beam structure and three much smaller legs on which the marble top sits, appearing to float above its foundations.

The ritualistic process of breaking and restoring the marble, its physical transformation, attempts to reflect the journey of our own psychological transformation.

 “I find self-acceptance to be a mental state that is very difficult to achieve, especially within the 21st century,” concludes Masayuki. “The influence of modern capitalism, pop culture and consumerism seem to provoke a sense of insufficiency as well as a materialistic hope to overcome that condition. Even if there is an understanding that it’s impossible to feel completely adequate, I find that it’s very difficult to come to terms with it.

“My project aims to not only create furniture that express personal meaning but imagines architecture or living environments as something that can help us feel more compassionate towards ourselves.”

Find out more about Brunel Design, part of the College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences

Reported by:

Sarah Cox, Media Relations
sarah.cox@brunel.ac.uk