Butterfly Stool

Butterfly Stool(Figure.1) is a simple, elegantly modeled plywood stool,made of two matching shapes held together by glue and a brass stretcher. It follows Renaissance principles in its design and was created in 1954 by Sori Yanagi, a Japanese artist and industrial designer.Yanagi used lacquered molded plywood and brass fixings to come up with the simple stool which is now on display at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

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Butterfly Stool is one of Yanagi’s famous beautiful works that looks extremely Japanese in its simple design. Despite this simplicity, it has a touch of a modern form of art through the flow of the wood grains. The pieces almost flow like water into each other to form a stool that one would not wish to sit on, but put outto beautify the house. The use of plywood as the material for making Butterfly Stoolgives the art a modern look despite being influencedby Eastern culture. Plywood is an important modern material that was used in the 20th century to design furniture and objects including architectural designs. Plywood has a great flexibility in determining the modern form of industrialized products.[1] The resultant stool made of plywood is a classic modern Japanese architectural design that shows a special treatment given to the wood grains. The pattern of the grain is mirrored on either side of the wood that forms the joint to make a seat. The seat is a 14.75" H beautiful brownish colored stool that attracts the eye before even having a second view. The color of the grains can be seen to make beautiful blend of running lines along each face of the stool. The lines are the true grains of wood used in making up the stool. Between the curved pieces of plywood is a brass stretcher that adds stability and keeps the pieces positioned properly.

Yanagi’s stool blends Eastern shapes with a Western technique of shaping plywood to form a curved silhouette that resembles the wings of a butterfly. The name of the stool is also well conceived for the object since it appears as though it has emerged from an ordinary piece of wood to be a beautiful object. The stool was designed to be a functional object but its beauty makes it serve as a decorative ottoman in an apartment.

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Sori Yanagiwas a Renaissance man who was known for his Butterfly Stool and Water Kettle designs that appeared in 1954.After studying art, Yanagistudied industrial design in 1947 and later on opened his own design studio (Yanagi Design Institute) in Tokyo in 1952.[2]As an architectural designer, Yanagi has helped in designing heavy bridges, silverware, porcelain, cars and Olympic flames. Hewas a leader and major influence on most Japanese traditional designs that are showcased worldwide. Most of his works are major examples of simple and graceful elegance of art. Yanagi studied to bean artist and has worked in several architectural studios.

As an architectural designer, he won several awards including the Mainichi Industrial design of 1952, the Milan Triennale of 1957 and the G-Mark Prize of 1958. Being one of the first Japanese industrial designers, Yanagi attracted the attention of the whole world to his art production ranging from domestic products to furniture. His works combined Japanese and Western traditions to develop art. He used modern materials blended with simple traditional beauty to form hisobjects. The range of products he has made include the Bakelite water jug and the aluminum Speed kettle. In addition, Yanagi has played a greater role in Japanese design education because he taught at The Kanazawa University of Art and Craft and The Women’s Art College in Tokyo in 1953 and 1954. He also became a director of the Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo in 1977.[3]

Butterfly Stool is elegant and simple since it was made out of two curved modeled pieces of plywood held together through compression and positioned by a brass stretcher. The butterfly shape of the stool has since been compared to a form of Torij, which is the traditional design of Shinto shrine gates. The stool design epitomizes Yanagi’s approach to architectural design. It shows his deep love for tradition, which is present even when modernist principles of practicality, tactility and simplicity are used. These principles are related to the works of Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, and Ray Eames who were also modern designers. The work of art followsthe Renaissance style since it encompasses the transformed Eastern traditions by absorbing art development of the time and applying contemporary scientific knowledge in its development.[4]

As a Renaissance artist, Yanagi used Renaissance theory in coming up with Butterfly Stool. The style he used was seen to be a rebirth of ancient Japanese traditions from classical antiquity. During this classical period, the traditions were transformed by absorbing recent developments in European art. The artistofthis period also applied the already known contemporary scientific knowledge in his art works.[5] He therefore placed emphasis on symmetry, proportionality and geometry to produce the elegant work.

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As a piece of art that followed Renaissance principles, Butterfly Stool was developed out of plywood to be a beautiful and simple object made through compression and held in position by a brass stretcher. As Yanagi would say, he creates things that human beingsconsider to be useful and beautiful in their lives.[6]


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