Mingei Artist, Minoru Kano

Published on January 22, 2013

Minoru Kano is one of the premier Mingei artists in Japan. Mingei roughly translates as “folk craft,” and is further explained by Kano himself during this documentary short. He also discusses the importance of moving away from a mass-produced culture and embracing, instead, the use of items that are hand-crafted from natural materials.

After learning economics, he questioned the value of mass production. It seemed that our culture was losing something and the only way to reclaim it was through the hand-crafting of goods items. He eventually met mingei craftsmen and that was when his career began.

A lot of people regard mingei as just a style, but is only one of its aspects. Mingei pioneers like Soetsu Yanagi said, “The essence of mingei exists when the Eternal Now is projected into the work.”

He didnt’t have any formal carpentry training. Instead, he traveled across Japan and observed older mingei handworkers for many years. Their work deeply affected him. By watching them, he learned how to make many things.

When he was 45 years old, he tried to build his own house. He showed his house design to architects, and they couldn’t understand why he wanted to use wood, which was out of fashion. It wasn’t the trend to use wood as a house-building material at that time. So, he decided to build the house himself. He collected, milled and dried the wood. With help from some other people, he was able to build his house. After that, other people started asking him to build homes and eventually he built about 25 oh them. Now he makes not only houses, but furniture, dishes and so on. He often feels deeply moved by the old saying, “Put your spirit into your work.” While working, he gets into a Zen space and experience total concentration. He often feels the moment when he becomes one with the material he is working on. When this happens, he feels he enter the piece that he is making as its soul. His work is shifting away from house-building to the crafting of smaller pieces.

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