history of mingei

The Japanese word Mingei means "arts of the people" and is a combination of the words people (Min) and art (Gei). The closest we in the West come to the concept of Mingei is "folk art", but in truth Mingei lies somewhere in between our concept of "Folk" art and "Fine" art. The word was coined fifty years ago by the late Dr. Yanagi Soetsu the Japanese philosopher who wrote The Unknown Craftsman which, since initially published in 1972, has virtually become the book of Holy Writ for unheralded craftsmen and artists worldwide. To sum up his concept of Mingei Yanagi famously said "true appreciation of Mingei lies beyond the traditional concepts of beauty and ugliness”.

The philosophical pillar of mingei is "hand-crafted art of and used by ordinary people" (, minshû-teki kôgei). Below are a few criteria of Mingei art and crafts:

  • made by anonymous crafts people
  • produced by hand in quantity
  • inexpensive
  • used by the masses
  • functional in daily life
  • Representative of the regions in which it was produced.

It was in this spirit that we started The Annual Mingei Pottery Invitational at Glenn Richards in 1998. Since that time the Mingei Invitational has attracted buyers from all over the United States and has become one of the most exciting annual pottery events in the Seattle.