Inside Mazda

Takumi Craftsmen Bring More Than Experience to Their Work

Craftsmanship is perhaps over-advertised in the era of craft beer, hand-made goods on Etsy and every niche watch company that springs out of Middle America. But, there’s something to be said for a human touch; the idea of someone putting time and attention into getting the details right is as satisfying to own as it is for its creators to make.

The third installment of Mazda’s real Takumi Masters, shown below, offers insights into the artistic side of automobile design. Inside Mazda editors sat down with Osamu Fujiki, a hard-clay modeler at Mazda’s Design Headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan, to talk about the nature of beauty in the automotive design process.

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In Japan, when an individual has developed his or her skills with years or decades of experience they receive the title of Takumi, meaning master craftsman. Mazda’s Takumi Masters work to design and create design elements that enhance beauty as well as function.

“Beauty is something that resonates in your heart and catches your eye, isn’t it?” Fujiki asked. “We try and think about how beauty can be found in the ordinary and everyday, and we try to realize that in turn with the shapes that we create. The way materials are put together becomes very important when taking all this into consideration.”

Fujiki has been designing the interior cabin space for Mazda vehicles since 1981. In that time, he has learned the Mazda way from his senior colleagues and passed that same knowledge and sense of value down to younger colleagues on the Mazda design team.

“My workplace is where we make design models,” Fujiki said. “The way we make design models is passed down from our seniors over a long period of time. By hearing a lot of stories from seniors, designers and people that I work with, I learned skills and techniques, and most importantly the reason why we make cars.”

That reason stems from a millennia of Japanese artisanal tradition.

“We try to keep a Japanese type of beauty in mind as we work,” Fujiki said. “We try to realize it in the making of the car itself. A sense of touch is important, but it’s also how you look at the vehicle as it’s being driven and how the light changes as it reflects off of the metallic parts. There’s a real beauty in these moments.”

As a Takumi Master, Fujiki knows that the tiniest details can have a profound effect on the final product.

“It’s really about making things over and over,” he related. “It’s coming up with lots of ideas and putting them into designs to see how it goes. It’s also about how we work different kinds of stitches, such as single and double stitch, into shapes to present our designs.”

By focusing on the details, Fujiki and his team can precisely convey the artistic sensibility they feel in their work.

“The stitches are very small details indeed,” he admitted, “but we include those as a way of including something unique to that car’s design. Those things are very beautiful and high quality, but an over-use of them has the risk of being an eyesore. So we think about where to put them.”

Perhaps more than anything else, Fujiki finds designing to be an outlet for self-expression in his work as a Mazda craftsman and the freedom to bring his own ideas into reality. This, itself, is an embodiment of what it means to be a craftsman—to make things with his own hands, instilling a sense of life, passion and spirit in every curve he carves into the clay. In Japanese culture, the craftsman are said to have the ability to imbue life into inanimate objects.

“We make things by thinking about what we want to say with those things,” he insisted. “That’s the impression you want to finish with and leave behind. That’s really the sort of beauty you want to bring to life in a product.”

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