Finding beauty in the ordinary
“Mingei”, or “art of the people”, refers to objects produced by anonymous craftspeople for everyday use by ordinary people. In Japan, these objects include a wide range of forms, including paintings, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, signboards, lacquer, baskets, paper, toys, and textiles. The word “mingei” was coined by famed literary and art critic Yanagi Muneyoshi (or Yanagi Soetsu, with family name first) and also means “folk art”. This term was created in reaction to the rapid cultural and economic westernization that was taking place during Yanagi’s lifetime. Traditionally, the Japanese never distinguished between “art” and “craft”. Highly skilled people simply made their living making beautiful and functional things. After the mid 19th century, when Japan was forced to establish more open trade relations with the west, the conceptual separation of art from craft was introduced. In 1916, Yanagi made his first trip to Korea out of a curiosity of Korean crafts. The trip led to the establishment of the Korean Folk Crafts Museum in 1924, and the coining of the term “mingei” by Yanagi, potters Hamada Shoji (1894-1978) and Kawai Kanjiro (1890-1966). In 1926, the Folk Art Movement was formally declared by Yanagi Soetsu. Yanagi rescued lowly pots used by commoners in the Edo and Meiji period that were disappearing in rapidly urbanizing Japan. The philosophical pillar of Mingei is “hand-crafted art of ordinary people” [minshu-teki kogei]. Yanagi Soetsu discovered beauty in everyday ordinary and utilitarian objects created by nameless and unknown craftsmen.
Category: Art & Design