English architect Norman Foster, the man behind the millennium bridge, has commissioned the construction of a pencil sharpener by Japanese designer Norie Matsumoto, a lady already familiar with the design of a pencil sharpener having included one in her earlier work.

According to Norie, the brief from Mr Foster was to design 'a pencil sharpener for three sizes capable of sitting on a desk and with a compartment to receive the shavings.’ The pencil sharpener will ultimately allow Lord Foster to sharpen all different sizes of pencil – a necessity in the life of an architect.

The purpose of the Wish List project is to familiarize next generation furniture designers in Europe with the beauty and potential of American hardwood, and to increase export sales. A series of projects initiated by high profile designers from around the world were included. Each of those designers commissioned a next generation wood artist to realize their ideas.

Norie says that during a phone call with Lord Foster and Sean from Benchmark, they discussed which material to use. 'We decided to use American tulipwood', she said, 'to make four simple and strong shapes: cube, tetrahedral, sphere and a cylinder. During the conversation Sean explained the material information about tulipwood, which is a comparatively cheap material in relation to other American hardwoods. Additionally, tulipwood often has a yellow and olive green pattern which Lord Foster liked for the marbling effect. We also discussed adding a tray for each sharpener mirroring the shape of it, i.e. a spherical sharpener will have a round tray. The tray should then have enough space for many colour pencils'. 

The choice had a decisive impact on the project. 'It was the first time I had every used tulipwood as a final material. I’ve used tulip wood for a mock up before because it is a cheap material but it is a stable wood which works very well for testing construction matters. After this project I realised American tulipwood is a very beautiful material which does have a strong colour pattern and a very smooth surface. I started to wonder why I haven’t used it as a final material before and am glad I’ve realised its potential'. 

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