Playful Design and DIY


The spirit of DIY has always been at the core of the 3D modeling group Gelchop’s creative processes. Formed in 2000, the Japan-based team has worked with large apparel brands and stores such as MUJI, sacai, BEAMS and Urban Research but always held onto its playful roots and joy of the DIY process. Now, it has firmly bounced into the international spotlight thanks to its collaboration with IKEA for the IKEA Art Event 2021. 


Gelchop members Ryota Morikawa, Tetsuya Ozawa and Ryohei Takahashi presented two designs at the event, a flashlight and a statement lamp, both of which take the form of the humble Allen key. In the past, they have created other quirky DIY items such as the “Super Lobster Joint Broom” and have also designed store interiors in both Japan and abroad. 

“The Allen key symbolises the essence of IKEA but it’s rarely at the center of attention,” explains Gelchop co-founder Ryota Morikawa. “As a tool that is used to assemble furniture, the Allen key has a small, insignificant existence. But I have changed it into a larger item that is different from its everyday size.”

Blown up in this way, the Allen key takes on a whole new form and acts as a major nod towards the flatpack furniture culture that IKEA has fostered. 

The group’s playfulness and strong connection to their DIY roots makes them an ideal pick to join IKEA’s 2021 other designers, which includes Sabine Marcelis, Humans since 1982, Stefan Marx and Daniel Arsham. The creatives revealed equally quirky items such as a butterfly collection cabinet wall feature that, instead of winged insects, frames drones and a blanket that reads “I wait here for you forever, as long as it takes.”

This year’s art event theme was to find and celebrate “that sweet spot between functional design and art,” says Henrik Most, Creative Leader for IKEA Art Event. Gelchop’s work was largely inaccessible to art fans, but will be available in IKEA stores in Japan from May 28, so anyone can invite design into their home.

For more on art in Japan, also check out:

Yoshitomo Nara: Beyond the Big-Headed Girls

 Tomoko Konoike: Art, nature and human creatures

8 Art Events in Tokyo to Visit this Spring