Tiles as objects of possibility.

Tiles that leave a sensory imprint.

Tiles connecting future and past, design and craftsmanship, Japan and the world.

Alternative Artefacts Danto is a dialogue between tiles and contemporary design.

The new brand, launching Spring 2024, explores the possibilities of tiles as interior objects, pushing the boundaries of material, form and function.

It is the latest creative venture by Danto, one of Japan’s oldest mass producers of tiles, based for more than 130 years on the island of Awajishima in the Seto Inland Sea.

Alternative Artefacts Danto, creatively directed by Teruhiro Yanagihara Studio, aims to shift ideas behind the meaning of tiles and imagine a new interior paradigm.

Every year, the brand will invite an international designer, architect or artist to Japan to collaborate and create tiles from a fresh, contemporary perspective.

The first collaborator is India Mahdavi, the influential France-based architect and designer known for her nuanced innovations of colour and form. Her creations will be showcased at the brand’s official launch at Salone del Mobile in Milan next year.

Collaborators will be free to explore the layers of Danto’s heritage – its skilled craftsmanship, born from the tradition of Minpei-yaki ceramics; experimental soil compositions that provide a spectrum of clay shades; and flexible variations of form due to its mass production capabilities.

“A tile can completely shift the atmosphere of a space,” says Teruhiro Yanagihara. “Danto use natural materials that are fired, so have a similar feeling to ceramics. They’re soft, warm, crafted. We want to explore the potential for these tiles as an interior material.”

Alternative Artefacts Danto will also breathe fresh life into the island of Awajishima, which has been home to Danto since it was established in 1885.

An expanse of coastal land where Danto’s original factory still stands – and the birthplace of Minpei-yaki ceramics – will be transformed into a creative hub, with a series of Alternative Artefact spaces, including artist residencies, shops, a restaurant and a hotel.

Danto Profile

dan - Awajishima
to – pottery

Innovative. Experimental. Crafted. Open. Timeless. These are all qualities that underpin Danto – one of the oldest companies in Japan to mass-produce tiles.

Danto came to life more than 130 years ago on the southern shores of Awajishima, a mountainous island steeped in nature and mythology, encircled by the blue waters of the Seto Inland Sea.

Its tiles are rooted in a richly layered history, threaded with innovative craftsmanship, experimental soil composition, contemporary design and meticulous production.

Danto History

The story of Danto begins with an influential 19th century figure as colourful as its tiles: Minpei Kashu, a renowned intellectual from Awajishima, who studied medical science, tea ceremony and the art of incense while also running a soy sauce factory. His deep interest in pottery inspired him to create Minpei-yaki (also known as Awaji-ware), a style of ceramics unique to Awajishima.

He opened the island’s first kiln in 1832 after studying under the famed Kyoto pottery master Shuhei Ogata. He went on to produce works that fused his acquired techniques with inspiration from China, Korea and Vietnam – resulting in an unusually modern signature style.

Typically using brilliant white soil from Awajishima, early Minpei-yaki ceramics were highly regarded among pottery masters across the region, due to the innovative use of high-tech moulds as well as vivid glazes in shades of yellow, red and green.

In 1885, these kilns evolved into the formal establishment of the company Danto – a moment that coincided with a rising wave of Japonisme sweeping the West and seminal modernisation within Japan as it stepped into a new era.

Immediately sensing the potential for innovation, Danto began experimenting – and made its first tile around 1890.

Danto went on to debut its tile manufacturing operation about ten years later, followed by full-scale production with moulding machines in 1908 – securing its status as the first mass producer of tiles in the country.

Its tiles were highly sought after, fuelled by growing demand in Japan for European-style buildings, particularly after Tokyo's devastation in a 1923 earthquake. Danto also acquired a reputation overseas for quality and versatility, due to flexible designs, forms and glazes available through mass production.

Soil is key to Danto’s DNA, both then and now. Until 1900, Danto used only white soil from Awajishima to produce what is known as wet-extruded tiles. However, production then switched to dry-compressed tiles, with a material composition created from a choreographed fusion of soils from across Japan (from Bizen and Shigaraki to Seto), mixed with a type of limestone.

This composite formula is unique to Danto, just like its original mould and glazing techniques. The end result is a raw material which is timelessly versatile, producing a cornucopia of baseline shades for its tiles, such as light yellows, cloud greys, soft pinks, moss greens.

Danto’s innovations extend to design. From the start, the surfaces of its tiles intuitively distilled the shifting creative climate of a world beyond Japan – while remaining rooted in the beauty of Awajishima’s craftsmanship.

Early decorative tiles fused Japanese motifs with flowing Art Nouveau curves, followed by clean-lined Art Deco geometry and Modernist touches. In the 1970s, the company began to produce tiles with a strong fashion and design focus, collaborating with iconic creatives such as Bruno Munari.

While the production of Minpei-yaki ceramics ended in 1939, Danto’s tiles have continued to thrive.

Today, Danto remains committed to experimenting with the boundaries of tiles. It explores and fine-tunes technical and design innovations at two key factories on Awajishima – Fukura and Ama (the exact spot where Kashu once crafted his Minpei-yaki).

About TYS

Teruhiro Yanagihara Studio (TYS) is an inter-disciplinary collective, based in Kobe (Japan) and Arles (France).

Japanese designer Teruhiro Yanagihara founded the studio in 2002. Dedicated to borderless design, it seamlessly integrates creative spheres, from products, interiors, textiles and graphic design to art direction and brand identity. Emotional narratives and experimental innovation are balanced with meticulous material research and a timeless modern aesthetic – whether crafting a tea cup, a scent or a restaurant.

TYS is open geographically as well as conceptually, with team members based in Japan, France, UK and The Netherlands. Craftsmanship viewed through a contemporary prism is another important ingredient, providing an elemental foundation for reimagining design in daily life.

TYS clients include Kvadrat, 1616 / arita japan, Karimoku New Standard, Skagerak, Offecct, Mame Kurogouchi and Kimura Glass, among others. It also runs Vague, experimental creative spaces, in both Kobe and Arles.