Dec 5, 201312:12 PMPoint of View

How A Design Firm Found Inspiration In Noodles

How A Design Firm Found Inspiration In Noodles

Kneading dough that will soon become soba noodles. Skyline Design explored the craft parallels between soba making and glassmaking.

Courtesy Skyline Design

This past autumn, Skyline Design partnered with food writer, soba chef, and culinary missionary Sonoko Sakai to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Here are thoughts from Skyline’s president, Charlie Rizzo, and design strategist, Lydia Esparza, on the collaboration.


Charles Rizzo

2013 marked Skyline Design’s 30th year in operation. Our roots were forged in a modest 5,000 square-foot studio in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. Today, Skyline still thrives in the city, only now housed in a 120,000 square-foot manufacturing and design facility. For the past 30 years, our goal has been to create beautiful, sustainable, and innovative decorative glassand it will always continue to be.

Throughout our history, we have been honored to collaborate with many top creatives in design and architecture, and we have always made great design and solid manufacturing skills a top priority in our company vision. We take pleasure in our work, where craft and creativity thrive, and we believe in local sourcing and strong environmental standards. Which is where Sonoko Sakai comes in.

While in Los Angeles for client and consultant meetings, Lydia and I visited Tortoise, a Japanese general store. Tortoise exhibits and promotes housewares, gifts, and furniture by Japanese artists and artists who use traditional Japanese techniques. It was here that Lydia had met Sonoko years before in her very popular soba-making workshopa three-hour class that instructs students in the creation and preparation of the traditional Japanese dish by hand.

The soba workshop at Skyline Design's showroom in Chicago's Merchandise Mart.

Courtesy Skyline Design

In Tortoise and Sonoko, we recognized a thoughtful energy put toward skill and custom, and we saw the parallels between Japanese tradition and techniques and the business model and ethos of Skyline Design. Plus, I had been planning an upcoming trip to Japan. The fit seemed ordained, and I was captivated.

Lydia Esparza

In planning to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our intimate and innovative organization, we sought to celebrate more than just the number of years in business. We sought to honor our craft and creativity, and I knew that Sonoko’s vision for her work matched our own vision for Skyline. Sonoko’s tactile attention to detail echoes Skyline’s own ethos of beauty, craftsmanship, and innovationan amazingly authentic fit. The common language between Skyline and Sonoko reinforces the importance of each of our crafts, which we hold in high esteem. 

Courtesy Skyline Design

Over a series of three intimate evenings in our new Chicago Merchandise Mart showroom, Sonoko demonstrated how to make soba noodles from just buckwheat flour and water and coached our guests handcrafted and cooked their own noodles. To reap the benefits of their labor, participants savored Sonoko’s preparation of three soba dishes: Soba with Dipping Sauce, Soba Salad with Eggplant and Peaches, and Duck Soba Soup. The evening celebrated simplicity, community, and the handmade process.

We truly felt, and were proved correct, that Sonoko’s workshop connected with our own efforts. We are working with raw materials, changing and evolving them by individual hands to create something new: in Sonoko’s workshop, Toyko’s delicious staple soba noodles, and in our own, an original and decorative piece of enhanced architectural glass.

The finished soba, ready to be cooked.

Courtesy Skyline Design

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