Before the plain natural materiality of Muji, artisanal bakeries, slow-life cafes and zakka-shops now all over hip parts of Japan, there was a time when it was cool to have a bit of pattern, stronger and richer colours. The Mingei movement or folk art and crafts movement was started in 1926 by Soetsu Yanagi, with key members Kanjiro Kawai and Shoji Hamada. This (according to Wikipedia) was a conscious effort (some argued a nationalistic one) to invoke a home-grown local aesthetic “hand-crafted by ordinary people” featuring objects that were inexpensive, commonly used and readily available, and most importantly “beyond beauty and ugliness”.
Now these same words and phrases are co-opted to fashion designed or “found” 0bjects that are simple in forms and shapes, use natural materials, utilitarian-looking, while surpressing strong patterns or colours, and of course affordable only to the well-heeled and design-minded.
It is easy to understand that what the current design world views as essential Japanese-nese, is also another trend in the evolving line of man-made culture (we still remember Shiro Kuramata’s flower-printed perspex chair and Kunihiko Hayakawa’s post-modern Atrium of 1985). And that these trends for all they claim are themes for a more sophisticated form of consumption. This present trend may have a longer lasting power, give it another ten years perhaps, but what comes next would be interesting to see.
Below: A visit to Shoji Hamada’s pottery studio in Mashiko.
Basic elements in an office (tables, partitions, shelves, lights) enriched with colour and tones and jazzed up in rifts to orchestrate a variety of experiences when you walk around this large horizontal space.
Tired of natural/raw industrial chic, we went back to basics refreshed with bits of colour. New office interior under construction. Plywood stained in 3 colours; steel frames in 4 colours; glass panels in 2 colours.