Founded by product designer Genki Harada and graphic designer Nori Yokoyama, TANT Inc. is a design firm engaged in all aspects of creative work. The company not only creates designs, but also co-creates methods of expression by solving fundamental issues and uncovering potential value to bring to light the appeal of a thing in creative ways.

TANT Inc.http://tant-inc.co.jp/
ikue websitehttps://ikue.work/
ikue online shophttps://ikue-shop.com/


In addition to the online shop, ikue brand products are also available at interior design stores and museum gift shops

around the world. For more information on where these products can be purchased, see the ikue brand website.

Top: The art studio; Center: ikue brand jewelry displayed at the office entrance.

Bottom: Partners Genki Harada (right) and Nori Yokoyama.



The ikue jewelry brand brings the deep sparkle of precious metals and gems to paper, an unconventional material choice for accessories. Some 100 sheets of paper are stacked one on top of the other, fanned out in a full circle, and the edges gilded using the Japanese sanpokin bookbinding technique to create delicate color schemes that blend the base color of the paper and gold foil. It is not simply the solid beauty of these pieces, but their unexpected nature — the surprise when a further look reveals the paper and bookbinding technique used to make them — that has attracted fans all over the world, especially among those drawn to delicate aesthetics.

“I wanted to create something with a universal value that would endure,” says Genki Harada of TANT Inc., who founded the ikue brand. After graduating from the Department of Product and Textile Design, Product Design Course at Tama Art University, Harada worked as an audio equipment designer at a major audio manufacturer. He then went freelance and got involved in developing home appliances and other products. It was at this point that he decided to take on the challenge of creating innovative products that not only incorporated the latest technologies, but would also reinterpret the value of existing technologies to create new possibilities. 

Harada asked Nori Yokoyama, a friend from his university days who had worked as a graphic designer in advertising, video, space design, and many other genres, to partner with him in this endeavor. Together, they started a design office. Yokoyama explains, “We wanted to create something new with our own two hands.”



The art studio

ikue brand jewelry displayed at the office entrance

Sanpokin is the traditional technique of applying gold leaf to the three cut surfaces of a book: the top edge, bottom edge, and fore edge. In addition to offering long-term protection to the edges, gilding also gives a book an expensive look.

What inspired the two young designers to create the ikue brand was the Tokyo Business Design Award competition. The competition aims to create new business possibilities by matching Tokyo manufacturers with designers who propose new products and businesses based on the materials and technical capabilities of the manufacturers with whom they are paired. Of the competition themes open to the public, Harada and Yokoyama chose to focus on the traditional bookbinding technique of sanpokin, incorporating it into product development and brand-building. Sanpokin is used to gild books such as Bibles and diaries and it also helps to prevent discoloration, shrinkage, insect damage, and staining.


Harada explains, “We decided to create new value by reconstructing the features of this technique, which has been handed down from generation to generation. Initially, we thought about applying the technique to materials other than paper to make furniture or knick-knacks, but in the end, we decided to focus on accessories using paper as the primary material. Paper is something everyone is so familiar with, and it is usually thrown away after use. This is exactly why we thought we could surprise people and create new value from it. We also chose paper because it can be used both two-dimensionally and three-dimensionally, which takes advantage of our respective strengths, in product design and graphic design.”


Their proposed paper jewelry brand, crafted using the sanpokin technique, was awarded the Grand Prize in recognition of the jewelry’s beauty and delicacy. It was this competition that provided the opportunity to bring the brand to market.


Artwork made with scraps created, as Yokoyama says, from “a sense of mission to create art.”

Although the die cutting and gilding are done by machine, all metal fittings are attached by hand, a process requiring highly skilled craftsmanship.

ikue prototypes, from the process of trial and error it took to bring these products to market

The designers may have won the Grand Prize at the Tokyo Business Design Award competition, but there were still many hurdles to overcome before their paper jewelry could reach the market. “The manufacturer we were paired with in the competition said that setting up production at a reasonable cost would be too difficult, so first we had to choose a different partner company that was willing to take on the manufacturing,” says Harada. “Finding a company was difficult, because our products require special paper processing technology. We met with a number of different companies before we were finally introduced to Shinohara Shiko Ltd., which is located in Koto-ku, Tokyo, and is known for its special bookbinding. We asked them to manufacture ikue for us. President Shinohara respects designers’ ideas and worked with us to find the best way to move forward, and we were able to create a project team that included the gold stamping company Bihaku Watanabe Co., Ltd., located in Arakawa-ku, Tokyo.” With the full cooperation of these two companies, both sought after by creators, bookbinders, and editors for their exceptional bookbinding and gold stamping capabilities, Harada and Yokoyama’s efforts to commercialize ikuereally got underway.

The next step was to select the paper from which the ikue pieces would be crafted. “The application of glue and gold foil differs so much depending on the brand of paper used, so we spent a great deal of time selecting the paper. We considered YUPO® and wax paper for their water resistance, but we decided to prioritize the paper’s ability to produce the colors that we wanted. Also, if the paper is too thick, the delicate beauty of the sanpokin gilding is compromised, so we chose the SAGAN and GERADO papers, which are able to produce a gorgeous jewelry-like feel in a wide range of colors,” explains Yokoyama. The glue used to adhere the paper to the spindle was equally important. “The thicker the glue, the larger the circumference of the ikue piece, and the more sheets of paper needed. So we repeatedly tested different binding methods with Shinohara Shiko. In the end, we decided to go with a glue called PUR, for its ability to achieve uniform folds and excellent durability that holds up well over time,” says Harada. Resolving each new issue that came up, including conducting water resistance testing for fluorine coating agents to compensate for the paper’s vulnerability to water, the designers were finally able to bring the brand to market after about two years of work.


Once ready, ikue brand products were exhibited at the interior and design trade show, Maison & Objet Paris, in January 2018 and 2019, as well as the Interior Lifestyle show in Tokyo in May 2018. The pieces have attracted attention for their well-proportioned design, gorgeous interplay of light and shadow, and their unique idea of turning paper into jewelry. In 2018, ikue won the Bronze Award at the international DFA Design for Asia Awards, earning international praise.


“Many people are surprised when they first hold these accessories and discover they are made out of paper. We were also surprised by how many men bought them. Perhaps they are something that men want to give women as a gift. They make a great gift for the paper anniversary* or other wedding anniversaries or as an accent on days when you want to dress up,” says Harada.* The first wedding anniversary is known as the paper anniversary.


Crafted in paper and gold, ikue jewelry opens the door to a new realm of possibilities for ornamental paper items. Combining traditional bookbinding techniques with a contemporary aesthetic, this new “Japanese Modern” sensibility delivers a timeless gorgeous shimmer.