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wood artist — Ryuji Mitani

ARTIST LIBRARY #001

At minä perhonen, we hope to create designs and practice ways of making things that bring freshness and special joy to daily life while taking into account the environment and society that surrounds us. We hope that the times spent using carefully crafted things for a long time will make everyday life more special and create many good memories.

For the first episode of ARTIST LIBRARY NIPPON, we spoke to woodwork designer, Ryuji Mitani, who has sincerely been working on "Seikatsu Kogei," the way crafts are rooted in our daily lives. Ryuji Mitani has a studio, Persona Studio, in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, where he has been working since 1981. Serving dishes created at Persona Studio with organic forms, in which traces of handwork remain, will beautifully and gently decorate the dining table. These serving dishes, which enwrap our daily cooking, are born from Ryuji Mitani's perspective on daily life.

[Valuing daily life]

“I have always valued daily life,” says Mitani. "I have always hoped that artists would create things that they felt were necessary for daily life, and that everyday people would incorporate them into their own lives. To some extent, the creators are training themselves as users. I've always thought that the act of eating food and performing each and every job properly will eventually affect the way of making things as an artist.”

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“It's not a matter of determining which is better, refinement of techniques in a craft-like manner or developing one’s sense of use as an everyday person, but I think both are necessary.”

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“When you rinse rice and it ends up in the sink, it's heartbreaking, isn't it? I’ve always thought that such things are very important.”

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[About white lacquer]

“Because I did not study lacquer in a specialized way, I have been able to interpret lacquer in my own way. As a user myself, drawing lacquer to an everyday person’s position, as a result, I ended up with white lacquer. At first, I worked with black lacquer. Black lacquer looks great when blue things are placed on top, for example, but I felt that it does not go well with everything. Generally, I have always had a longing for white tableware, so I wanted to make white dishes similar to porcelain or white serving dishes. Thus, I started making white lacquer.

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[A small community, a small center]

“To have creators and users in a small community and to have things being made through dialogues would be interesting. I feel that this is the way it will be from now on: Creating richness within the scope of daily life through the existence of craftsmen and various people instead of going too far with mass production. A society that values comfort over convenience.”

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“Knowing who made a product makes all the difference. If a close person makes a product, people become emotionally connected, and products are born out of necessity. It's not just about words or things.

In the past, there has been too much polarization between things made by artists and industrial products made according to efficiency as a priority. If many small communities and cores emerge, the polarization can be reduced."

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Mitani's serving dishes and cutlery have a strong presence of handwork. One cannot help but imagine how they were made and how much time was spent on production. While using the same-sized dishes on the dining table, the fact that each piece is slightly different from others provides comfortableness. It is a reminder that evenness is unnecessary.

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“Daily life itself is our freedom and a place where we can express our identity. It became clear to me that efficiency and productivity did not necessarily promise human society happiness. Perhaps there were things that did not make sense until they were done, but when done they provided us with clarity. A different kind of society must be created."

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"Surely there are moments in our daily lives when we suddenly think that we want a particular thing. Based on necessity, small quantities should be created. If such moments become more frequent, it would be good."

[In daily life]

“What we want in a museum and in our living space is different. By paying attention to the living space, things that are created will become different too. It is as if to objectify nature and live together with it rather than putting too much emphasis on vision. Things are drawn to places that are close to our five senses, such as touching, tasting, and wearing. When the five senses are valued, perspectives that are different from visual and economic values emerge."

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“It's hard to verbalize things that cannot be seen. It's hard to convey them. We all understand them in some ways, but it's hard to verbalize them. There is something important in that too.”

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Ryuji Mitani


Wood artist. Born in Fukui City, Fukui prefecture in 1952. In 1981, he opened his studio, Persona Studio, in Matsumoto City, Nagano prefecture. Works together with craftsmen to create wooden serving dishes for everyday use.
In April 2019, minä perhonen elävä I held Ryuji Mitani’s solo exhibition, entitled “Hakunohi.”

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photograph: Hua Wang