The Japanese Craft Tradition: Kokten Korgei
3 October - 21 December 2001
This unique collection of Japanese crafts sat in perfect harmony within the intimate interiors at Blackwell and within the Arts and Crafts Movement architecture of the house itself. It was one of the most significant exhibitions in Britain during 2001 and attracted a large audience of both national and international visitors. To accompany the exhibition there was a programme of associated events, a seminar, workshops and lectures.
The exhibition looked at the way crafts were commissioned for the Japanese home in the 1920's. At the same time it addressed the modern revivial of commissioning craft, made from natural materials and traditional methods, in both Britain and Japan.
On display were a number of important works by past masters of Kokten Korgei, on loan from the Nihon Mingeikan Colection in Tokyo. Kokten Korgei is the crafts section of the Kokugakai, a major society of artists and craftsmen which was founded in 1926 to encourage artistic freedom and independence from government influence.
The Kokten Korgei was founded a year later by the potter Tomimoto Kenkichi and the formation of the group owed much to the influence ofthe philosopher and art critic, Yanagi Soetsu who had led the folk craft movement in the 1920s. Early members of the society set the cornerstones of the group's activities and several were made 'National Living Treasures' during their lifetimes. Some of the early members include Hamada Shoji, Kawai Kanjiro, Yanagi Soetsu and the British potter Bernard Leach.
Yanagi introduced the idea of Mingei, which means 'craft of the people', as the essence of contemporary craft making. Yanagi felt that there was great beauty in objects that had been produced, not purely for visual effect or to bring fame to the maker, but simply for everyday use. In the Mingei tradition, craftspeople have produced objects that are designed to be used, rather thanmerely observed. Finished pieces are thus the result of laborious processes based on precise skills and traditional techniques. Many of the important members of the group were faithful exponents of Yanagi's philosophy, as are many of the contemporary makers working in Japan today.
The exhibition and associated events were partly funded by the Daiwa Foundation and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation.