MicroWorks: Making Rainy Days Fun!

Picking up your clapped-out umbrella when it’s rainy, who hasn’t ever thought about why even now in the twenty-first century, our means for protecting ourselves from the rain are still so primitive? Forget being able to watch movies on your phone, we should be developing more sophisticated ways to keep people dry!

Well, the Tail umbrella, created by design studio MicroWorks, will certainly convince you of the merits of the brolly on rainy days.

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What’s special about Tail is the way you tie up the umbrella canopy. As the name suggests, you do it with the tail of an animal made from Velcro tape. The cute creatures then accompany you around town on rainy days.

PingMag spoke to MicroWorks designer, Shunsuke Umiyama.

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A Japanese dwarf flying squirrel will protect your head from getting wet!
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Or there’s a monkey
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His tail sticks out when you open the umbrella

MicroWorks makes all kinds of products, like chopsticks, paper folders and more. What made you think to make an umbrella?

I first presented this at an exhibition in May a few years ago. Right after the exhibition, there is the rainy season which I don’t like, so it started when I thought how I could make the gloomy reason season a bit more fun. It’s not the case that I was particularly limiting it to umbrellas, but that was just one of the ideas I had.

Making the strap into an animal is a really distinctive idea. Were there other parts of the umbrella you were particular about?

The most important thing in the umbrella is the animal silhouette strap. First of all, I was conscious that the strap really comes to the fore, so I chose and used ready-made parts for the rest in order not to put a financial strain on the creation process. I didn’t use those parts just as they are, but I cut and re-sized the handle, and made other detailed adjustments in consideration of how it looked when closed or how it felt to use.

You first released Tail in 2007 but you are currently relaunching it. How has it changed?

Up till now the Tail umbrella was made with plain ivory material. But when I spoke directly with customers I heard a lot of requests for more variety. They often asked if there was only white available. For the relaunched Tail I am using leftover materials and making it only in small quantities, so I can use many kinds of materials that are “sleeping” in manufacturers’ warehouses. I can make the Tail in a variety of patterns and colors, and realize the requests I previously received for more variations. I can also now avoid having to prepare manufacturer’s material specially and the burdens of having an inventory.

In addition to the dwarf flying squirrel and monkey versions, I am also thinking about making a new cat design for which I got lots of requests.

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Previously there were just white versions but now there are lots of different colors.
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The cat is a new arrival! This one is only a prototype and it’s not certain the check design will be for sale.

Lastly, please tell PingMag readers your recommendation for rainy days!

Well, on a rainy day, I think you should just stay at home! (Laughs) But if you go outside accompanied by the tail of an animal, not only you, the people around town will also see it and be cheered up.

Thank you, Shunsuke Umiyama.

MicroWorks is currently recruiting supporters for its upcoming Tail re-release, offering exclusive items not usually for sale and other special offers for campaign donors.

Tail relaunch campaign