In folk crafts we can find healthy and normal beauty most richly than in any other kind of art... I say more positively that in these folk crafts we can even find the standard of beauty, just as we can find the essence of faith in humble people without knowledge.
Tea Pot with landscape motif (sansui dobin,) Mashiko, ca. 1900. It was a tea pot like this, seen at the home of his teacher Itaya Hazan, that inspired Hamada Shoji to establish his kiln in Mashiko in order to make “healthy work.”
The Mingei, or Folk Craft, Movement was founded in Japan in the early 1900’s by Soetsu Yanagi and other 20th Century craft icons such as the potters Shoji Hamada, Bernard Leach, Tomimoto Kenkichi, and Kanjiro Kawai; textile dyer Keisuke Serizawa, and woodblock print artist Shiko Munakata. Like the European and American Bauhaus and Arts & Crafts Movements, Mingei proponents espoused the spiritual and humanitarian importance of hand crafts at a time when the Industrial Revolution was rapidly changing not only the way that objects of daily use were made, but also the way in which daily life was lived. Yanagi’s Mingei Biron (Folk Craft Theory) also promoted the superiority of Craft (over fine art) based on Buddhist ideas such as tariki (the “Other Power” of tradition) over jiriki (the “Self Power” of individual artists,) the detachment of ego practiced by unknown craftsmen, the freedom of limitations and irregularity, and the notion of non-dualism, or a world “Beyond Beauty & Ugliness.” These theories have had their fans and critics over the years, but they have undoubtedly helped to preserve and promote craft traditions that were in danger of extinction. Mingei objects have also taught and inspired countless contemporary artists with their tradition and aesthetics. Our collection features Mingei objects that we feel indebted to for their special form of beauty.
This may sound strange, but I wish to surround myself with contemporary works. It is a fact that new works are often inferior to good old works. However, if a work made today is honest, even though imperfect, it carries the sincerity and weakness of the maker which in return corresponds with the user. In this regard, both parties reach each other at a more intimate level.
Wood-Fired Plate by George Gledhill; Payette, ID. The experience of working solely with natural materials among rural potters in Bolivia, and his many years of Buddhist studies, have greatly influenced the organic & quietly powerful work of George Gledhill.
This is a favorite quote from Hamada not only on contemporary craft, but on the relationship between the craftsperson and the user. In this regard, we include craft items by contemporary artists alongside those unknown craftsmen of old. Many items are from Mashiko, where Hamada based his kiln, and where I lived in 1999-2000. We admire contemporary artists who show respect for, and draw inspiration from, good works of the past. Some follow tradition more closely than others, but in all their work we see beauty that is timeless.
TEA & MORE
Everybody needs beauty, as well as bread.
Sencha served in a tea cup (yunomi) by Hamada Shinsaku, Mashiko. Mingei objects cannot realize their true beauty until put into use. Then, good work can be, in Yanagi's words, a “true companion for life.”
WaSabiDou is also passionate about tea and a large assortment of tea ware is included in our inventory. To order premium Japanese leaf tea and organic matcha, and to see additional tea ware and accessories, please visit our Charaku Fine Japanese Tea site by clicking on the link in the menu column. If you are in the Seattle area, showroom visits and tea tasting are available by appointment. Please contact us by e-mail: or phone: 206-660-4189 to arrange a time, but availability is generally weekends only. WaSabiDou is owned by Tatsuo Tomeoka whose interest lies in bridging East and West through the sharing of culture and through the focus on the borderless and timeless beauty of mingei. He is a frequent speaker to college classes and art groups on the topics of Mingei Theory and Aesthetics, Japanese Tea, and Woodblock Prints. He has also produced several cultural, music, and art events in the Pacific NW and a World Music concert tour in Japan. Please visit our blog for information on these and other activities, in addition to sale updates and news.