Dezeen showroom

Oku knife by Kathleen Reilly balanced on the edge of a plate of buttered toast

Kathleen Reilly creates folded knife that can be "hooked onto the rim of a plate"

Dezeen Showroom: informed by traditional Japanese table settings, Scottish artist and metalworker Kathleen Reilly has designed a knife that features a handle folded 90 degrees from its blade.

Reilly was informed by chopstick rests, which are typically used to elevate the tips of chopsticks from table surfaces to prevent contamination, when creating the Oku knife.

Oku knife by Kathleen Reilly on the edge of a wood chopping board with jam and scones
The knife's shape is designed to keep the blade off the table

Oku's folded shape allows the handle to be placed on a surface while the blade sits perpendicular away from the surface. Alternatively, users can rest the knife's blade along the edge of a plate or cutting board.

"The knife can be hooked onto the rim of a plate, creating intimacy between the two objects whilst improving cleanliness and maintaining stability," said Reilly.

The Oku knife held to be used to scrape a block of butter
Oku is a reinterpretation of western knives with eastern influences

Taking its name from the Japanese word for "to place" or "to put", Reilly aimed to create a reinterpretation of the western table knife that interacts with tableware in different ways while maintaining a recognisable knife form.

"Influenced by my western upbringing and experiences living in Japan, I set about redesigning the western table knife to improve its performance and keep its blade off the table," said the designer.

"Functional yet unconventional, Oku introduces a refined aesthetic that breathes new life into the dining space."

Oku knife packaged with a wood chopping board and poem printed on paper wrap
The Oku knife comes with a chopping board

To demonstrate the functionality of the knife, it is packaged on the edge of a Japanese ginkgo wood cutting board.

Reilly created the knife in collaboration with local craftsmen in Tsubame, Japan, which is a city renowned for its metalworking history.

Two Oku knives by Kathleen Reilly balanced on the edge of a plate
The handle is shaped to feel comfortable to hold

According to the designer, Oku is made from stainless steel that was crafted using generations-old manufacturing techniques, and the inner edge of the handle is curved to be comfortable to hold.

The project has been shortlisted in the homeware design category of Dezeen Awards 2022, alongside a textile range with colourful patterns representing climate-change data and a rug collection that weaves together wood and wool.

The photography is by Kakeru Ooka.

Product: Oku
Designer: Kathleen Reilly
Contact: [email protected]

Dezeen Showroom

Dezeen Showroom offers an affordable space for brands to launch new products and showcase their designers and projects to Dezeen's huge global audience. For more details email [email protected].

Dezeen Showroom is an example of partnership content on Dezeen. Find out more about partnership content here.