Writer: Charlotte Burns
Photographer: Charlie Schuck
When you’re part of a band on the road, you have plenty of time to think. “There’s a lot of waiting time — at venues, on the bus, waiting around for band-mates,” says Jonah Takagi,
designer of Hem's Peg Hooks. “I had been touring the US playing bass guitar for a couple of years after graduating from RISD. But, I was turning 30 and my Mom wondered about what I was doing with my life. I was compelled to start making physical objects again. I felt like I had something to say,” he says.
Takagi, who was born in Tokyo and raised in the US, launched Atelier Takagi in 2009. The first thing he drew and produced was a simple, black, five-legged table that was inspired by the kind of American furniture he saw in Connecticut as a kid whose mother took him antiquing. Since then, he has produced various objects, from wardrobes to lamps, tables to stools,
The collaboration with Hem on a coat hook was “seamless”, he says. “It’s such a simple product — really just a wooden dowel cut at a specific angle, protruding from the wall — but sometimes the simple things require the most thought or engineering,” he says. “The mechanism by which it attaches to the wall is really slick. I had drawn a version that was not as good, but the design team at Hem was able to improve upon my original and turn it into something very elegant. It’s the best thing you could have hoped for from a collaboration.”
Takagi is philosophical about his role in society. “As a designer, I am constantly dealing with existential crises about the amount of stuff out there in the world — good and bad — and the amount of designers out there designing things that are both good and bad. I don’t necessarily want to contribute to the noise,” Takagi says. “I want to create something I feel very strongly about. I want it to be worth people’s time to look at, and worth their money to buy. I feel like that’s really in line with what Hem is doing: getting the quality right and taking the time to be considerate.”
For Takagi, innovation is more than invention. “Innovation is kind of a weird thing. I guess it is different for everybody,” he says. “For me personally, I am not inventing more efficient solar cells or new types of battery or potable water, so the amount of truly pioneering innovation is less. But the products I make are a manifestation of how I live my life in that I try to be creatively healthy, to figure out new ways to stay inspired or to see things in new and different ways,” Takagi says. With a laugh, he adds: “I mean, I created a dowel you hang your coat on. You could have just hung your coat on a nail. But I like how it looks, I didn’t see anything like it and I wanted to make it badly enough that I did it.”
Charlotte Burns is the Senior Editor and host of In Other Words, a website and podcast about the art world created by Art Agency Partners that engages cultural heavyweights in conversation on topical subjects and presents in-depth profiles of artisans and artists.