Tuesday 26 November 2013

Proposition on MINGEI

It is quiet in the Ebiya galley this morning, just the sound of time pouring steadily out of the wall clocks one tick at a time. It has been a very hectic few months, and I am taking these hours before the gallery opens to catch up with myself.
I have spoken about mingei, about my philosophy on life and art, and heard argument around and about concerning what Yanagi and Hamada and Leach did and did not say, do or mean. I was looking through a book on Sunday morning and found this very succinct passage written by Yanagi. It does not require my embelishment, so I share it with you here, and will let you think about while I compose my next blog.    
Proposition on MINGEI
Soetsu Yanagi
Mingei (the abbreviation of  minshu-teki kogei ), which means the crafts or arts made by the people to be used daily by the people, was coined to imply the opposite of bourgeios fine art. Mingei is
I. utilitarian oriented
II. commonplace ordinary or "normal" things.
Everyday necessary items such as clothes, household utensils, furniture and stationary articles are included in mingei. What is luxurious, costly and rare is not mingei.
Those who make mingei items are not notable individuals, but nameless craftspeople. What is made is not to be displayed but to be appreciated through everyday use. They are regular indispensable things made in quantity and affordably priced. The nature of mingei is born from the community's way of life.
However, mingei is not every single inexpensive necessity you see lined on shop shelves. Mingei must be honest to its utilitarian purpose. Items created with commercial motives are dishonest to its purpose.
Items made in fashion are elegant and refined and often based on distinct preferences. They are not mingei because the concern in decoration and ideas preceed utilitarian basics.
 Mingei items must be:
I. honest to utility and "healthy" in form
II. particular about quality
III. produced without being forced, artificial or self-imposing
IV. conscientious of the user
Things made with appearance above quality, intentional negligence, vulgar colours, and those that are cheap, easily breakable, flimsy and not user-oriented are dishonest and unethical.
For these reasons, mingei must be faithful to everyday life and "healthy" (both physically and spiritually). True mingei is your true companion for life. It has the virtue of being useful, dependable convenient, and comfortable to live with. It has the affection to grow on you. Mingei is therefore natural, genuine, simple, durable and safe.
The sincerity of the peoples' craft created mingei, and its beauty emanates from the items' purpose and utility. It is a "healthy" beauty; a beauty that Yanagi called buji-no-bi (the beauty of spiritual freedom and self sufficiency).       


  1. So beautifully put. I'm saving this. It may end up on the wall of my studio -- with attribution, of course! Thank you.

  2. Yes and I hope that you make enough sales to feed you and the family and make more clay.

    1. Thank you, anon, what more could one ask for?

  3. Thank you for posting the Proposition on Mingei. I agree with Anon regarding your success in the future.

  4. Thanks Euan, for reminding us of this. Yanagi has said all that needs to be said: now we make and use.

  5. I would appreciate if you could send me the Japanese source for these words by Yanagi. shidai33@hotmail.com