In 1959, Toshiko Kobayashi and Hiroshi Teshigahara send a Christmas card to their friends Walter and Ise Gropius. As a post-script, they wrote “We have Yanagi’s tray. We hope you are still anxious to have it.” Recent research has identified the tray was sent by film artists Kobayashi and Teshigahara. The bent plywood tray coated with shiny black lacquer is a mid-20th century design by world-renowned Japanese designer Sori Yanagi, confirmed by the Yanagi Design logo and patent number embossed into the bottom of the tray.
Walter and Ise Gropius eagerly followed Japanese design and architecture throughout their careers. Their acquisition of the matched pair of Butterfly Stools by designer Sori Yanagi that sit in front of the fireplace, and their keen interest in obtaining this sleek curvilinear tray are a testament to this. Both objects feature Yanagi’s experimentation with bent plywood as a means of industrial production, and the use of a traditional Japanese lacquering. This mix of modern and traditional aesthetics, materials, and craft work are part of Yanagi’s signature design style.