Kawai Kanjiro, (1890-1966), was known as a major contributor to the Mingei (traditional folk arts and crafts movement). More than just a potter and wood craftsman, he was the noblest of all kinds of person.
Kanjiro was an artist who wanted to remain a maker empowered by his craft, rather than as artist qualified by his fame or notoriety. He never signed a single piece of pottery. He said “my work itself is my signature.”
During his lifetime, Kanjiro turned down all official honors and rewards, including Japan’s Living National Treasure. He was a man unmotivated by material possessions and simply wanted to create for the sake of creating.
He continued to explore who he was through the things he touched and brought to life. This seemed to be a life long passion that became part of who he was. He said “to see my new self, I work.” This was a very important part of his craft. Constant improvement- “kaizen”. He believed “lifestyle is work, work is lifestyle.” They were one and the same.
Humble, unpretentious, real- He never lost touch with common folk and greatly respected the farmers in the countryside. “They are the kind of people we can never do without,” he wrote.