Zaishu is a Japanese-inspired, print-decorated plywood seat of laser-cut components that can be flat-packed and assembled without glue or nails. Zaishu was conceived by the Australia designer Matthew Butler of Bluesquare design in 2004 and launched using stencilled street artwork at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne. Since then the commercial Zaishu range has expanded to include versions of the stool printed with 1970s wallpaper designs by Florence Broadhurst, botanical prints by Melbourne-based Spacecraft Studio and abstract designs by Julie Paterson of Cloth, Sydney.
An important aspect of Zaishu has been the 'Zaishu Project', an international initiative based on a number of collaborative, interactive projects with artists, designers and communities in Europe and India. This international dimension to Zaishu has been described by Butler as 'a program of participation, creativity, responsibility and evolution...an international collaborative event, recording patterns, designs and cultural texture from around the world on sheets of plantation-grown veneer.' Several of these projects, notably those in Sweden and India in 2006, have also generated revenue for charitable causes.
Zaishu is a particularly interesting product for both its innovative, sustainable design and adaptability to different decorative patterns, but also because of the international scope of its artistic, community and fundraising activities. Zaishu is about involving individuals and groups in the creative process of design and promoting consciousness-raising ideas about the accessibility and social and environmental responsibility that should be inherent in all good design.
'Looking for water', the most recent Zaishu edition, is an abstract pattern designed by textile designer Julie Paterson of Cloth, Sydney and inspired by Australia's drought: 'The teardrop motif reflects the shrinking dams and the deep scars that the livestock make as they walk the same track leading to water.' (Julie Paterson)