Zaishu – Matthew Butler and Helen Punton

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I’m Very excited to present you with the Zaishu by designers Matthew Butler and Helen Punton. The Zaishu isn’t just a stool or piece of furniture, behind it’s lovingly painted slot together sides is an underlying philosophy. The Zaishu represents and reinforces a social understanding and awareness of cultures, how? well it’s designers have travelled the world and have approached over a thousand different people, to hand paint their design.. keeping the ever changing panels fresh and unique. Supplying buyers with their own individualized design.
The fundamentals principles for their design is simple,
“Creativity, participation, responsibility (environment and society) and evolution.”

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So, What is a Zaishu?
The Zaishu was designed from the ground up to be a product that responsibly addressed environmental issues whilst encouraging social interaction and creates awareness of other cultures.
This is achieved by using plantation grown pine, water based inks and varnish and the way it flat packs for distribution. We host socially interactive painting workshops around the world to unite creative people and to exchange and evolve ideas.

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The name Zaishu actually comes from a mistake in translation. What was meant to be Zaisu a name for a traditional Japanese seat, but an accidental ‘h’ was added. However, this says Butler, “sets a good tone for the organic way we run the company – relying on feeling and instinct rather than what is technically correct.”
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The core of Zaishus success revolves around the very fact that it is a collaborative project, rather than a designed product.
Matthew and Helen have worked with over 1000 different people over the last 4 years from many different countries and cultures to create the artwork that adorn the Zaishus slot together sides.
“We find that collaboration helps us to grow ideas and expand possibilities rather than thinking my idea is better than someone elses or that I can do everything.”

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Hand painted Zaishus are created by artists as diverse as stencil artists from Melbourne, tribal artists from India and Fiji and street poster artists from Berlin. “We currently have an exhibition in Amsterdam with Zaishus painted by a group of Dutch artists. A lot of these projects are not for profit and support a worthy cause such as a school in Fiji or children affected by war in Uganda.

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Also available are commercially made Zaishus that are hand printed in small batches at Matthew and Helen’s coastal studio. The designs and patterns have been created by textile designers and artists that the pair work with.

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Who Developed the Zaishu?

As noted earlier, the Zaishu is by Australian based designers, (not far from Byron Bay for the aussies tuning in) Matthew Butler and Helen Punton, a little about the duo –

Matthew Butler – born in Australia, currently living and working from Yamba – a quiet little town on the coast near Byron Bay NSW. Trained in Architecture, Industrial Design, sculpture and gained experience as production manager for Tom Dixon in London during mid 1990’s.

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Helen Punton – studied Graphic Design in Australia and designed the signage for Melbourne’s ‘Metlink’ public transport system and exhibit design for the Melbourne zoo. Helen has lived and worked in Berlin for several years writing and directing short films and curating exhibitions such as the Australian Design Exhibition ‘Modernwhite’ and ‘Sharpies’ photography at the Australian embassy in Berlin in 2005.

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and just to give you a bit of an insight into the lives of these two, how’s this for an adventure, in the next couple months Matthew “will be cycling around Patagonia and visiting craftspeople along the way, [Whilst]Helen is climbing the Inca trail in Peru. We hope to see some innovative techniques and ideas that we can work with.”

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To up and coming designers Matthew offers this, “Forget the rules, create your own context to work within. ie: don’t design a ‘chair’ but design a ‘platform to support the human body’.”

A huge thanks to Matthew for and Helen for sharing with us their obviously very personal and special design, the zaishu.
Cheers from the Design Tavern!



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