Simplified Beauty | Visiting Japan by Reiko Kaneko
We commissioned Reiko Kaneko, SCP designer and co-curator of the Simplified Beauty exhibition, to write an essay to accompany the show. Here we are proud to publish it alongside some images from the trip she and Sheridan Coakley took to Japan earlier in 2014.
“Take heed of the humble; be what you are by birthright; there is no room for arrogance.” Soetsu Yanagi (The Unknown Craftsman, p97)
This show, Simplified Beauty, is based on a single design value embodied in humble, simply made, mass hand-crafted products. It puts forward the idea that a lack of personality is something that makes objects beautiful. SCP has chosen three companies to showcase at the London Design Festival that embody this idea: Ishinomaki Laboratory, Shotoku Glass and the Mashiko potteries. Here I hope to provide an introduction to this philosophy; explain how SCP developed the focus for the show; and describe how I see this value relating both to design work today and to our notions of beauty.
SCP founder Sheridan Coakley first came across Ishinomaki Laboratory, a furniture maker in Japan, at a Paris trade show. The solid construction of their furniture combined with an unusual lightness of touch intrigued Sheridan, and prompted him to visit Japan to find out more. In June this year we visited Ishinomaki Laboratory, Shotoku Glass, and the Mashiko potteries and during the trip the idea for this show came together. We wanted to discover more about their design principles and in our discussions with them we began to understand that their design ethos was influenced by, and is in many ways part of, an older and larger movement known as the Mingei (民芸) movement.