Q&A: Sori Yanagi’s Elephant Stool for Vitra

Sori Yanagi
Elephant Stool 2004 (original design 1954)
Eckart Maise, Managing Director, Products Division, Vitra Design Museum, responds

Where did the idea for the stool’s design come from?
We have been working with Mr. Yanagi before on a re-edition of his famous 1954 Butterfly Stool. As we always like to present as much as possible of a designer’s oeuvre, we and Mr. Yanagi chose the Elephant Stool.

What’s innovative about the Elephant Stool?
It is a stackable, three-legged design from 1954 that was originally made in fiberglass and only available in black and white. We’re bringing it back in an injection-molded plastic. We asked Yanagi to develop a color range for it, because it’s a relatively inexpensive plastic stool that looks very nice if you have a stack of different colors.

What was the greatest challenge to realizing the design?
We worked for a year-and-a-half with Yanagi because we had to do some engineering work on the stool. The challenge was to bring it up to today’s technical standards without changing the original design. The good thing was that Yanagi—who is now 88 years old—helped us keep a balance.

Did anything interesting happen during the development of the stool?
Meeting Mr. Yanagi in his Tokyo studio was a great experience. His studio is a small room in a backyard with little daylight; he has been working in it since the early 50s. It was great to see all the little traces of a designer’s work life.

What’s your favorite object?
In the last years, I have been most fascinated with the Akari Light Sculptures. Isamu Noguchi’s work is incredible.

Is there anything you absolutely must do while you’re in New York for the ICFF?
A visit to Murray Moss’s shop is a must. It seems like he will have a great installation by a Dutch artist [Maarten Baas] this year.

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