ARITA 400project Meeting: Reviewing Experiences of Exhibiting Overseas.
In September 2014, the ARITA 400project spectacularly debuted at the MAISON&OBJET PARIS, a prestigious international trade fair. A report meeting was held to review and share the information and experience gained from showcasing overseas and pick up on trends and needs. We report on this foray abroad, identify challenges, and explore approaches for the next show.
Quotations and operations: Learning to talk business overseas
On March 4, 2015, a MAISON&OBJET Exhibition Project (ARITA 400project) Report Meeting was held in the Kyushu Ceramic Museum, Saga Prefecture, hosted by the ARITA VALUE CREATION LAB* and coordinated by its director Kazuya Shimokawa. The meeting heard presentations from Kiyoyuki Okuyama (KEN OKUYAMA DESIGN), the ARITA 400project producer, and speakers from 8 participating companies. *Another project to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Arita porcelain. About 100 people gathered, including participants in other 400th anniversary projects, trading companies and potteries of Arita porcelain, designers from Arita and other production centers, and members of the town council and administration, clearly showing the high level of interest in the ARITA 400project.
The booth of the September 2014 MAISON&OBJET was located in a corner of the Hall 7 gallery titled "Interior Scenes." In the elegantly designed monotone color booth, large-sized photo books were distributed and made a strong ARITA impression on visitors. Even though the project members had no experience at such "gathering and doing," through this project, they exhibited porcelain works as a "team" but with great individuality, and were able to talk business. Mr. Okuyama said: "The first exhibition is always like a first night performance, but even so we still set each company a target of finding at least one business partner such as a distributor or promising retail store, and thus get the business ball rolling. In the beginning, it is important to experience dealing with overseas by doing business with one company. I also want them to study the practicalities of overseas distribution." The members introduced their own experiences, for example, "We were unable to present a quote on the spot," "We had a hard time with operations abroad such as the language problem," or "We specified a local price and minimum order volume, and had a good response." Mr. Okuyama reported: "From among all responses, about 30% were serious; we've just got to keep plugging away. Exhibiting is not the goal in itself, the real goal is to be tenacious and win orders."
Communicating the Beauty of ARITA Overseas
Members stated their own approach to monozukuri, their new awareness gained from overseas evaluations, and their feelings about exhibiting: "Arita's 'mass production' is positioned as 'handicraft manufacturing' overseas; technology no longer used abroad is still found in Arita," "When we saw the lackluster responses to the Nabeshima style, we thought it's going to be difficult unless we change." Mr. Okuyama reported: "The response to dami* and celadon ware was lukewarm, and it's hard for people to understand them; it is very important how we present our message and relate the narrative of each piece. Moreover, value is not automatically attributed to a 'handmade' item, it is found in articles that can only be produced by hand. We'll reexamine all our sizes and designs, and set even lower prices for best-selling items to make them more broadly available, and higher prices for flagship items as 'art pieces with special value' for sale to galleries and so on."
Preparing for the Challenge: January 2016 is the big show
Mr. Okuyama reviewed the project plan: "Exhibiting in MAISON&OBJET in September 2015 is a 'sales event' to discover best-selling products, and with a better location, we will further expand our present theme, and by ensuring continuity we will make an impression with the ARITA 400project. However, the January 2016 fair is the real thing, the moment for promoting and proposing new products. We will present each company's highest skills with flagship items, and showcase the world of ARITA today."
"Design is not to produce 'pieces' but to produce 'results' for investment into new development; design is a kind of financial product. If we see the ARITA 400project as a fund, unless we first produce results in January 2016, we won't see the future. I want members to strive to establish the foundations for the next 400 years, as after all in only two years from now, January 2017, we will see the end of the ARITA 400project, and our members will need to ask themselves, what steps will they take to continue the ARITA legacy?"
*Dami: Blue-and-white (underglaze) painting technique using gosu, a cobalt pigment to produce shades of indigo blue. Color is washed as a plane, not drawn by line, and shading is created by fine-tuning the amount of gosu liquid. In Arita, artisans specializing in line drawing differ from those devoted to dami shading with its many diverse and highly skilled techniques; to master the thick dami brush technique takes many years of training.