Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who often uses paper as an architectural material, describes the beauty of paper as “frozen liquidity.” During the paper making process – especially the traditional Japanese paper (washi) making process – the fibers are first bathed “comfortably” in slimy water, says Kuma. It’s only when enough water evaporates that they finally, slowly but indefinitely, transcend into the solid, crystallizing/fossilizing their final moments drifting in the liquid. Kuma described this “elegant” transformation as “frozen liquidity.”
If such “frozen liquidity” takes a three-dimensional shape, it must be Kenya Hara’s whipped cream-like, seamless container that softly enveloped Pierre Hermé’s signature macaroon “Ispahan.” Pierre Hermé is a renowned French chocolatier often dubbed as the “Picasso in confectionery industry.”
The package was designed by Hara and produced by a Japanese paper company, TAKEO. According to the article on TAKEO’s website, Hara hand-molded the mold by massaging, rubbing and shaping the clay using his own hands. Calling it a “creation of hands,” he kept interacting with the clay until his hands finally found the shape that felt right for him. “Every detail was decided and shaped by the tips of my fingers,” remembers Hara, which he describes as a sensuous and instinctive experience.
Hara came up with a couple of shapes. The whipped cream-shape was the first form his hands produced. He then added a small crater to the surface. He also created a dome-shaped one. All three were realized thanks to TAKEO’s molding technology, which involves soaking a mold in a tank that dissolves the fibers. The excess water is removed from the mold to finalize the product. It was a lot of work to transfer the hand-molded shape into a model drawing, adjust the angles to facilitate the production process and make the products stack-able, remembers Hara. A small sticker with an ear made of washi (traditional Japanese paper) seals the product.
The delicate, skin-like output quietly but decisively “froze” the sensuous moment when Hara found the right shape, which was captured in the organic and inviting curves of the product. And it was made possible because it used paper, which was capable of freezing the fibers’ liquidity.
As much as it must have been a sensuous experience for Hara who created it, it is also pleasure to our senses to imagine the moment when the clay mold was sandpapered, revealing smooth, fertile, almost voluptuous curves. Or the moment when the mold accepted the smooth and creamy liquid that embraced fibers. When the water was filtered out, the fibers were “fossilized” in the shape of mildly curved form, exposing what stirred Hara’s senses.
If paper is anything, it might be a media medium to record a transient, elusive moment. Not just the physical shapes or movements, but the subtle relationships of many things that shape our world.