T Lab


"Pole pole" means “little by little”, in Swahili.

So, is that African craft?

While the design and the concept are indeed inspired by foreign cultures, the manufacturer is not African but Japanese. Actually, the design suits quite well into Scandinavian designs, for example. This original and sensitive product comes from T-Lab, based in Hyogo Prefecture, in the region of Kansai, Japan.

The minimalistic, roundish, cute-ish design of these wooden statues hide a deeper reflection than one could think. The motto of T-Lab is “to warm people’s heart” with a craft transmitted “from their hand to your hand”. Besides the necessary artistic and technical aspect of any handcrafted goods, T-Lab gives a whole philosophical and social meaning to their creations.

Every single piece is handmade, hand-carved, hand-sanded, and hand-painted, all which takes a huge amount of time. But this is part of their philosophy: the slogan of T-Lab (in Japanese) is not obvious to translate literally, but it basically means “Slowness, into a shape”, or “To shape the slowness”. This gives the “polepole” name a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?

Besides the concept, what makes polepole wooden animals so special?

The concept is pushed even further: though each animal is handmade, therefore unique, they are also almost identical. Take the shape, the paint, the polish… Everything is slightly different when you pay lots of attention, but almost indistinguishable, and yet, each animal has his own facial expression, emanating a unique emotion.

This is for sure the result of the artisans taking time to achieve each step of this painstaking work, but even with time, only a highly-skilled craftsman can achieve such precision, regularity and quality in his craft.

This is why the craftsmen of T-Lab are proud of the time they spend on their creations. The “polepole” philosophy is not just a message, it is also part of the object, part of its creation process. This sincerity gives the “polepole” wooden animals a whole new dimension, and their creators consider that this is the reason why they are “heartwarming” items. We would gladly add “heartful” to the description.

Nonetheless, even if it is a beautiful collection of meaningful and artistic quality artisanship, the philosophy underneath it would probably not be complete if it had no concrete impact on the world.

Therefore, all the T-Lab products are free of chemicals, from the treatment of the raw material (wood) to the paint they use. Finally, T-Lab is committed into the preservation of Albizia Falcata forests, by replanting the trees they use for the creations. By doing this, they can ensure the quality of the wood they use, and since the variety of tree they use grows faster than most, it helps with the decarbonisation of the air.

The circle is complete.

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