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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kawai Kanjiro, Japan's William Morris

"Any work of art belongs to everyone, because it is whatever each person sees in it.  It is the same with people. We are all one. I am you. The you that only I can see."

 tiger plate

Kawai Kanjiro (1890-1966) was a potter, artist, calligrapher, sculptor, writer and philosopher.  He was one of the founders of the Japanese Mingei ("folk art") movement in the early half of the twentieth century which was responsible for revitalizing and keeping alive many traditional arts in the face of the "great tide of industrialization" that was sweeping Japan.  Kanjiro valued simplicity and beauty in everyday articles of use (sounding familiar yet?), collecting the works of poor craftspeople from all over Asia.  With his compatriots he sought to "counteract the desire for cheap, mass-produced products" by reviving traditional arts.  His output was so tremendous, including over 10,000 glaze experiments carried out while still a student in college, that it was said that a supernatural force was guiding him.

His home and pottery studio have been preserved as the Kawai Kanjiro Museum in Kyoto.

how beautiful is this pussywillow is hung from the kettle hanging over the brazier in the center of the room.

A highly unusual mix of eastern and western style furniture characterized his home....

The gal on first floor above is sitting in front of the brazier -- very much an "open plan" design with sliding panels providing privacy as needed.  Note block and tackle hanging from ceiling in center of house!

the small kiln

This is the first time I've ever seen an Asian "stair" cabinet used as actual functional stairs!  I love how the string of balls serves as a banister.  You can also see how the wall is framed up to the cabinet from the hallway side in bottom pic.

The modest looking face to street.  The curving bamboo structure along the front is a quite common feature of traditional homes in Kyoto and is called inu yarai --- according to what I could discover, it serves multiple purposes including: 1) protecting the earthen or wooden wall from becoming dirty from rain splashing up from the road; 2) stopping dogs from peeing on the wall (Inu means dog); 3) keeping people from loitering in front and leaning against the wall (in days when streets were more crowded), and 4) making it difficult for burglars to climb the wall (I'm sure any self-respecting ninja or parkour-ian would find this last thought amusing.)