Interviewer: Misa Fujii
A Love letter from Kaoru Mende:
I think you are a person with a lot of vitality and an amazing lighting designer. When I say “Feel free to think freely,” you always seem to come up with a killer idea, unlike anyone else. I think that if we wait and see, you are headed towards becoming an incredible woman of unbound spirit.
Fujii : I`d like to start today by recalling the love letter you wrote me.
Mende : Oh, yes… I wrote this on the flight coming back to Tokyo from Shanghai. I think I had finished a couple glasses of champagne.
Fujii : So, you were feeling good and scribbled out this love letter.
Mende : I just wanted to acknowledge and praise the innocent power of imagination dwelling inside of you. This purity and devotion is an irreplaceable qualification for not just a lighting designer, but any designer in general.
Fujii : Well, how about you? Are you pure and innocent?
Mende : That is a good question! I don`t think I am innocent, but maybe pure. I have been told I play favorites to all sides of the field.
Fujii : Really?!
Mende : Oh, yes and maybe they are right. In business situations, I try not to be too opinionated so we can all get along. In other words, there are times when you have to suppress your opinions and listen to what the others have to say. However, if you are pitted against someone, I don’t think this is the time to back down. When a client really needs to hear my opinions and ideas and they are staring me down, this is no time to sugar coat things, but a time to be assertive. In a good sense of the phrase, playing all sides of the field, one is very considerate of others and communicates well with others without overstating oneself. A form of affection, you could say.
Fujii : I have seen you working with and having fun with children at workshops. I`d say that is a pretty pure and innocent Kaoru Mende. These events might be the driving force behind unstoppable imaginative powers.
Mende : When I get an Idea, I am very cynical and try to look at it from all sides. Sometimes taking a different perspective than normal is a real eye opener. For my generation it is pretty common, but sometimes social criticism seems like a personal attack and it can hit your psyche pretty hard. Design is very agonizing, always trying to come up with new themes or ideas and then looking at them from all angles. This is how I work, but you might be different.
Fujii : Yes, I think so. I brought along a few of my sketches with me today. Can you take a look? This first sketch is of a very thin, vine-like pole with a luminary on top. The pole is very thin so it sways in the wind, creating scenes with movement. I thought this might be interesting.
Mende : I see.
Fujii : The next sketch is of a meadow with several laser pointer-like devices lined up. If it is a clear night, you might not be able to see anything, but if it is cloudy, the beams of light shine up and pierce the clouds for a fantasy-like experience. Maybe at a resort hotel somewhere we could use this idea to create a one-of-a-kind landscape.
This next sketch is of a large, white membrane that covers the Tokyo night sky. Without a plane to reflect light, we can’t really “see” the light and can’t comprehend the amount of real light pollution. By covering the night sky with a white sheet, we will be about to see just how bright Tokyo really is. I think we will be surprised.
Mende : That sounds like a big project, almost spiritually inspired. Maybe if we attached an illuminance meter to the bottom of an aircraft and took readings and showed the lux levels while in flight.
Fujii : Yes. That might work better. It might be interesting to see that kind of aircraft. Next, the surface of buildings could read like a CD and at night when light shines on them the facade would become a rainbow of colors.
Mende : Similar to a dichroic mirror.
Fujii : The next sketch is…
Mende : Anytime now i’d like to draw a conclusion to our talk today. However, this fabrication of one idea after the next is a very important drill. At the university some of my students draw out lots of sketches and some don’t, but those that write and draw things out always seem to have the better ideas. Misa, if you polish up this rapid-fire idea machine of yours, I think one day you will become a great designer.
Fujii : Thank you.