Tsutsumi ware and the folk art movement
With a history of over 300 years, dating back to the Edo period (17th to 19th century), the Tsutsumi ware pottery workshops exclusively produced tea ceremony bowls for the lord of the Date clan. Since then, these traditional wares have come a long way. In time they were expanded to incorporate pots, bowls and plates and began to be produced for everyone for use in daily life.
A philosopher, Muneyoshi Yanagi, proposed the unprecedented idea that “true beauty” dwelled in simple everyday items. He is known as the father of world renowned product designer Sori Yanagi, and one of the founders of the periodical literary magazine “Shirakaba (white birch)”. Muneyoshi Yanagi, who had a profound knowledge of art, was attracted to Korean ceramics and found beauty in everyday things created by relatively unknown craftsmen. In the year 1925 with his partners Shoji Hamada and Kanjiro Kawai, he named such things “mingei,” or folk art.
They visited numerous workshops all over Japan to research and collected local “mingei” items that were on the verge of dying out due to industrialization. Doing so, showing this dedication, and leading a satisfied lifestyle associated with “mingei” was also called a folk art movement.
Muneyoshi Yanagi visited the Tsutsumi ware workshop in Sendai with his companion, Hamada, at the beginning of the Showa period and wrote in his journal “Mingei Kikou (craft art journal)” that “Tsutsumi ware has a spirit not seen in the other kilns. Tsutsumi ware Kenba kiln is outstanding.” Both of them took a particular liking to, and had high praise for, the water jars with a deep blue glaze.
The Tsutsumi ware water jars were, at the time, indispensable in daily life and were found in every home. Thus, it was a “true craft” in Muneyoshi Yanagi’s eyes. He asserted “there is nothing quite as beautiful as something that is true.”