Starting from the ”monozukuri” shop floor
Gen Terao chose the path of ”monozukuri” (“making things”) in 2001.
Eleven years earlier, in 1990, he dropped out of high school and spent a year roaming the Mediterranean coast with nothing but a single bag containing books, stationery, a Walkman, and a few changes of clothes. As he crossed the fields of Spain, he asked himself what it truly meant to live a rich life. This brought him to an important realization: to make do with less, you need the best tools available.
After returning to Japan, Gen fully devoted himself to his music. Unfortunately, his dreams of rock stardom didn't come true and he felt his first real experience of defeat. This led him to another realization: even our most sincere desires are not always granted. Having given music his all, he was considering his next move when he became increasingly aware of the importance of the everyday tools he used in his workspace (computer, desk chair, etc.)
A chance discovery of a Dutch design magazine also helped guide him toward the world of monozukuri. He found himself deeply moved by an article that introduced the bold initiative and vigorous activities of being a designer. Realizing that he wanted to make better tools with his own two hands, Gen began teaching himself design and product development through daily practical experience.
He became a regular visitor to the electronics markets of Akihabara. Asking questions there, he learned about material characteristics and product composition. He absorbed the specialized vocabulary of industrial products and manufacturing word by word. Lacking professional guidance in the vast field of design and product development, he decided to move forward by creating his own path.
A one-employee company
Gen’s next goal was to infiltrate the manufacturing floor. Using the vocabulary he learned in Akihabara, he went through the phone book calling over fifty factories. Most were too busy to help him, until finally one factory responded to his determination. (He remains in contact with that factory to this day!)
Borrowing working space from that factory (which specialized in metal machining) he continued his studies with hands-on work on actual materials. Starting with filing, he mastered the processing equipment, and as he assembled metals like aluminum and stainless steel, he came to grasp the key points of both manufacturing and design itself.
After learning CAD, Gen was ready to design his first product: a cooling platform for Apple Macintosh laptops. These stands featured a slightly angled design that also made their keyboards easier to type on. This first attempt at creating a better tool addressed the issues that he had experienced himself.
He painstakingly selected 8 mm plates of aluminum and assembled each unit individually, bringing forms he had only imagined into real life. After designing the logo and website, he put his creation on sale.
This was BALMUDA’s debut product, the X-Base, released in 2003. Gen taught himself design and steadily learned the processes he needed to bring his vision to life with his own two hands. This was the birth of BALMUDA.