The Virtuous Anonymity?
The idea of “ideas” seems to take up a large presence in today’s world: everyone knows Steve Jobs but few are familiar with the companies or technologies that enabled iPhone. Having an idea is one thing, but as a daughter of craftspeople, I am always drawn to the skills that realised the idea into being.
The core members of a century-old Mingei movement were educated, fashionable, young intellects who had access to the latest arts and cultural trends in Europe: foreseeing what lifestyle changes may come ahead, they advised shokunin artisans on what designs might appeal to the current users, in order for their crafts to survive in the future. This co-creation of designers and craftspeople founded the base for the thriving crafts culture in today’s Japan, and still is.
And then there was a notion of anonymity: Yanagi and his fellows were amazed at the beauty of humble, daily objects, none of which even bore the name of the makers. Yanagi drew parallels in their act of crafting, such as throwing dozens of bowls in a day, to the act of daily Buddhist chanting. In these non-egoistic acts of creation or recitation, there was no space for seeking external recognition.
Shall we take that as an ideal state as a maker?
Takeshi Yoshizawa is a koto, a wooden musical instrument, craftsman. This instrument is typically 13-stringed, and the players can produce more varieties than 13 notes by moving the bridges which hold the strings to produce codes when strings are picked.
One of his clients, a koto teacher, requested one with more strings. In the end, he was able to meet the request and the 27-stringed koto was born. With that 27-stringed koto, she was able to produce wider-ranged notes. She was a skilled player, and the koto complimented and enhanced her artistry.
One day, she called up Takeshi and said she was thinking of creating another koto, possibly with more strings. At the table with her proposed plan, Takeshi said “Well, you say you create the koto. But was it so? Every time I’ve been to your concerts and you introduce the 27-stringed koto as your design and creation, have you once mentioned my name? You never once honoured me and my work.”
His answer was no. She understood.
As with anything, there is someone or something that enabled our comforts, joy and betterment of life. We receive these blessings daily. Do they ask for recognition? If yes, then great! Let us give it in the most honest, heartfelt, sincere way. If they don’t, then let us seek their trace and honour it to the best of our ability.
Photos courtesy of Sayaka Takizawa