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Rabea Gebler & Ido Ferber Sentomono

Published 26 / 10 / 2021

Ido and Rabea make up the duo behind Sentomono. From Japan, they learn ancestral techniques and experiment with new forms, giving life to pieces halfway between tradition and modernity. Meet.

Hello Ido and Rabea, can you introduce yourself and your background?

We are Ido and Rabea, a couple living and learning in Tokyo, Japan. We both have a BA in industrial design and a strong pull towards the crafts. Rabea is from Germany and Ido from Israel, which is where we met when Rabea was doing her exchange program at the design academy Bezalel. We come from different backgrounds but share a resentment towards the modern practice of industrial design and believe in the esthetic and sustainable values of traditional craft.

Why did you choose Tokyo to develop your practices?

We moved to Japan together after Ido received a scholarship to do his masters in Craft at the Tokyo University of the Arts. As we have both been fascinated by Japanese crafts for some years now we took this opportunity open handedly to learn more about the people, culture, tools and craftsmen. Funny enough, with no tourists in the country it has allowed us to visit all kinds of strange places and experience them more as locals than as foreigners. We feel very lucky to be able to be here.

How do you work together?

Well, we don't usually work together in the sense of making objects together, as we often have our own ideas of what a finished object should look like, but we do learn new techniques together, share knowledge, tools and muscle power. We always help each other with things that are easier to do with four hands or two brains. Our shared projects where we do work together for a single goal revolve more around building our workshop and fixing up the 80 year old wooden house we live in.

What is your relationship to wood?

Ido : I think my relation to wood is primarily my relation to trees, plants and the natural world in general. My father is an olive farmer and an avid fruit tree grower and my childhood revolved a lot around nature, submerging in it but also learning the skills to harness nature to your needs. Being a woodworker for me is not just about working the wood, it's about loving nature and being part of it.

Rabea : Wood fascinates me as it is alive and I feel like I step into a conversation with the material when working with it. There is only so much you can ask it to do and it always keeps its own individual character. I enjoy working with hand tools especially, leaving traces of axes and knives, adding my own narrative to the story told by the wood.

What have you learned from Japanese crafts?

Ido : I think the biggest thing I am learning at the moment is the importance of engagement and repetition. The importance of repeating your actions over and over again, failing time after time until you achieve your goals. It might be nice to do something once and succeed at it but doing the same thing a 100 or 1000 times over is much harder, especially if you fail the first 500 times.

Rabea : There is this deep sense of listening to the material, really understanding what it is telling you and how it would like to be treated. I feel like in Japanese crafts the processes are broken down into very small steps and each step on its own is considered of equal importance and worthy of perfection. There is a special name and tool for every one of these steps and often the creation of a single object is divided between multiple craftsmen. This concentration on the perfection of one's single action and the idea that you never stop learning, is what, in my opinion, really makes the Japanese crafts stand out.

You are interested in urushi finishing, can you tell us about this ancestral technique?

Urushi is a fascinating material used to lacquer a variety of different materials including porcelain, metal, leather, paper and wood. It is made from the sap of the lacquer tree which is native to Asia and primarily found in Japan, Korea and China. It has unique properties like resistance to acids, alkali, alcohol and heat which make it durable enough for lacquered objects to last thousands of years. In fact some of the oldest Japanese urushi vessels date back to around 7000 BC. Urushi is also a very delicate and complicated material to work with for multiple reasons, one being that it contains urushiol which can cause mild to severe skin irritations, if not cured correctly and craftsmen practice immunity to this for years. The lacquer only cures in a specific warm and humid environment, usually in what is called a muro, a wooden cabinet with controlled temperature and humidity. The Lacquering process of an object includes the application of many thin layers each cured for a few days before the application of the next. Making an urushied vessel can therefore take months to complete.

Can you present us the different pieces that you created for the selection "On The Table"?

Ido : I have created for this on the table selection 4 bowls all carved from the same tree that was felled in my university. A Chinese Hackberry that grew too tall and too close to the electrical wires. Giving second life to a tree that would have been thrown in the dumpster gives me much pleasure, moreover when it is turned to useful tableware that will serve people for years to come.

Rabea : I was intrigued by the lustre of Urushi and how beautifully it reflects light of an object. I therefore created a series of plates and spoons inspired by the sea, lacquered in black urushi, depicting different moods of the wild waters of Japan. Holding these objects, letting the sun bring the textures to life as if it was the moving waters - to me that was the real joy of making these pieces.

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