Bent plywood reminiscent of a butterfly's wings

" To use your hands to make something and think while doing so. "
- Sori Yanagi


Butterfly stool designed by Sori Yanagi was designed in 1954, one of the most iconic and significant Japanese designs inspired by the plywood molding technique of Charles & Ray Eames and Alvar Aalto’s. Sori Yanagi was not planning to design Butterfly stool on purpose, but he just did when doing his experiment. The most significant feature of the stool is the two identical curving silhouette seats, however, there was no factory at that time able to transform such complex curved surfaces because it's not easy to put the molding plywood in a 3-dimensional form. After Sori Yanagi and Japanese craftsman Kansaburo who studied plywood molding for 5 years with numerous experiments, "Butterfly Stool" finally developed and manufactured in 1956.


Butterfly stool is one of the significant Japanese designs that demonstrated Sori Yanagi’s organic forms combining western industrial designs and Japan’s native artisanal traditions. With the unique plywood bending technique and elementary structure, gently curving the silhouette of the seat shells and inverted L-shaped sections, each forming one leg and half of the seat as reminiscent of butterfly's wings. Supported by a metal rod midway between the legs only. The natural simplicity and warmth of wood elements present a light, graceful posture like a butterfly flying. Sori Yanagi put his butterfly stool design distinguished from furniture standards at the time, bringing a low-key humbleness of Japanese aesthetic and natural beauty.

How butterfly stool manufactured : 

1. Using maple or palisander wood, two pieces of plywood as a set for symmetry pattern

2. Bending the plywood to the curve shape with a metal mold, so the heat can be evenly transmitted on the surface forming a better shape.

3. After the process of molding and bending, 10 more steps required manual work for trimming, coating  and resembling.


Sori Yanagi, who valued practical aesthetics and traditional Japanese craftsmanship. He was deeply influenced by French modernist architect Le Corbusier and design master Charlotte Perriand in his early days. His work always emphasis on the natural material and minimalist shape, insists on designing with his own hands, believes that hands are the best way to convey human thoughts and touch to make the product itself full of vitality as if it can breathe. In addition to craftsmanship, he also valued industrial technology developed by his time, to coexist functionality with social relations.


Sori Yanagi, born in 1915 in Tokyo, attended art school in the city and worked from 1940 to 1942 in the office of the designer Charlotte Perriand. In 1952, he founded the Yanagi Industrial Design Institute, which created a prolific number of articles of daily use and furnishings. Sori Yanagi’s organic forms combine western industrial designs with Japan’s native artisanal traditions. This successful synthesis made Sori Yanagi one of the most significant Japanese designers of the post-war era. In addition to furniture, he also designed lighting, glass objects, cutlery, children’s toys, metro stations, cars, and motorcycles.


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