Paul West at Her Studio
I visited Paula West's Pottery studio last week to write a pre-Artstock profile for the blog San Juan Update. In it I wrote, "I asked her what inspires her. She talked about the beauty of everyday objects and the inspiration she gets from folk arts, quilts, her garden, and tribal crafts." Paula also asked me if I knew about The Unknown Craftsman. I didn't, but I've been reading up on it since. The Unknown Craftsman refers to an aesthetic philosophy based on the work of Soetsu Yanagi. Yanagi wrote The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty and was the founder of the Japanese Folkart Movement in the 1920s. The "Unknown Craftsman" is the folk artist who created functional objects that were never signed. Yanagi rescued pots made by unknown potters of the Edo and Meiji periods. The earlier anonymous works were vanishing in the wake of new industrially produced goods.
It has been suggested that the Japanese Folkart Movement may have been influenced by the British Arts and Crafts Movement started by artist and writer William Morris. Whether or not that is the case they were parallel movements that recognized what was being lost as their respective cultures plunged into industrialized modernity. Both movements sought to retain and protect traditions of handmade crafts. Just as they were seeing their culture's craft traditions disappear they sought to elevate and promote them. They valued truthful use of materials, exalted the process of craftsmanship and revered the beauty of craft.
Ceramic Cup, Paula West