Video: Rob Schanz, Max Houtzager
Photos: Max Houtzager
Location: Tokyo Japan
“I don’t have a strong consciousness of it, but there is a time when trash or nothing special seems beautiful. Then you take that and magnify it, this tiny thing, becomes special in so many ways. My patterns are the result of this.” - Hironori Yasuda
Over 20 years ago in Santa Cruz, California, Eli Atkins showed up to his first day at work at Giro Sport Design. He was surprised to find a hastily left behind desk with no computer and a few things left behind from the previous art director, but nothing of interest except for one book, SPATS. The book of all black and white patterns immediately resonated– one pattern in particular. Before he knew it, he was an avid follower of Pineapple’s Studio Graphic, collecting all the ‘Super Special Background Patterns’ books that he could, and returning to them whenever in need of inspiration.
Over the years Eli would try to find out more about who was behind the books, but despite high demand for these 80s and 90s out of print books around the world, there was little to no other traces online. “I’d meet other artists and designers and the SPATS books would often come up in conversation. Some people had books four and seven and nine while others would only have a single copy of say, book three, with missing pages and extensive wear. None of us knew anything about the artist. It was like he was just a ghost” Eli says. After finally finding contact information for someone named Hironori Yasuda on the Pineapple’s Studio Graphic website, he knew it was a must to reach out. Sure Eli can reference patterns copyright free, but how could he go on without at least exchanging one slight bit of communication. This ghost was one of Eli’s biggest influences, a guiding light of inspiration in pattern making, his hero of technique and output. He had so many questions, with an underlying sense of wonder on whether this person was even real or not. Do they share anything in common besides design? What is the source of Mr. Yasuda’s inspiration, his process, his motivation, his purpose?
After many contact attempts a response finally came, but Eli was disappointed to receive a letter of polite rejection. Eli would not give up. Finally, he convinced Yasuda to meet. In conjunction with Terasu, plans were made to meet and discuss a collaboration. It all happened in a few hours at the Terasu Studio in Tokyo. Eli knew nothing about Yasuda going into it besides the existence of a website with an infinite number of patterns and the coveted SPATS books. Twenty some years of endless wonder and yearning for connection around the designs that inspired him most would unravel in just a few hours, and ultimately be reduced back into design- in the form of the limited Giro X Yasuda collection.