William Watson, “Fall 1952 Pottery Seminar: Shōji Hamada (b. 1894 Tokyo, Japan – d. 1978 Mashiko, Tochigi, Japan), Bernard Leach (b. 1887 British Hong Kong – d. 1979 St. Ives, UK), Sōetsu Yanagi (b. 1889 Tokyo, Japan – d. 1961 Tokyo, Japan) and Marguerite Wildenhain, (b. 1896 Lyon, France – d. 1985 Guerneville, CA), 1952.” Digital print from a scan. Courtesy of The North Carolina State Archives.
Sōetsu Yanagi (b. 1889 Tokyo, Japan – d. 1961 Tokyo, Japan)
Sōetsu Yanagi was a Japanese potter and philosopher known for his theory of mingei, or “folk art,” which he developed into a movement in Japan. While visiting Korea in 1916 he gained an appreciation for Korean craft, going on to help establish the Korean Folk Crafts Museum in 1924. Back in Japan, he worked as the editor for the journal of the Japanese Folk Arts Association from 1931 to 1951. He collected folk pottery from the Edo and Meiji periods, eventually founding the Japanese Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo. Yanagi was invited to teach his philosophy of craft at Black Mountain College during the 1952 pottery seminar led by Karen Karnes and David Weinrib. He taught alongside potters Marguerite Wildenhain, Shōji Hamada, and Bernard Leach. His book “The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight Into Beauty,” featured in I AM A CITIZEN OF THE WORLD, became an influential text for folk artists and scholars.