Starting from the ”monozukuri” shop floor
Gen Terao chose the path of ”monozukuri”—literally “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 by bus and on foot, he asked himself what it truly meant to live a rich life. This taught him an important lesson: To make do with less, you need the best tools available.
After returning to Japan, Gen became a musician, with dreams of rock stardom. But these dreams were not to be, which taught him another lesson: Sometimes, even our most sincere desires are not granted. It was his first real experience of defeat. Having given music his all, he was considering his next move when he gradually became aware of the importance of everyday tools like the computer and desk chair he had used for composing and recording.
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 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, absorbing the specialized vocabulary of industrial products and manufacturing word by word. Standing on the broad plain of design and product development, at first uncertain of which way to go, he finally began to move forward, drawing his own map as he went.
A one-employee company
His next port of call was 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, but 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 machined and assembled metals like aluminum and stainless steel, he came to grasp the key points of both manufacturing and design itself.
After learning CAD as well, Gen was ready to design his first product. It was a cooling platform for Apple Macintosh laptops, with 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 into concrete reality the form he had imagined for this stylish and functional tool. After designing the logo and website as well, he put his creation on sale.
This was BALMUDA’s debut product, the X-Base, released in 2003. Gen had taken this first step alone, teaching himself design and steadily learning the processes he needed to bring his vision to life with his own two hands. This was the birth of BALMUDA.