Last year, the woodware designer Ryuji Mitani held a solo exhibition in a shop called Arts and Science in Kyoto. As a fan of woodware, I was naturally drawn to the event. Mitani’s wooden plates and eating utensils look so simple at first glance as if they are products that can be easily found in any shops. The vibe his woodware exudes is, however, full of warmness. Without a distinctive design, the items he makes can easily fit into any environment. They can be easily overlooked but never ceased from filling our life with bliss.
Mitani’s woodware was undoubtedly full of charisma, but what impressed me the most in his exhibition was his pottery works. There were a few ceramic boats in the outdoor area of the shop, turning the narrow strip of exhibition space into a grand canal and vast ocean. Waves of sunlight were glittering down and seemingly had set the boats on motion, even though the boats clearly remained still.
Mitani would apply lacquer in his carpentry work. In traditional terms, lacquer should be evenly applied and polished to perfection. On the contrary, Mitani would insist on the texture of strokes when he applies the lacquer so that different shades can be visible. To the eyes of experienced lacquerware craftsmen, Mitani’s works are probably not up to scratch. However, it is exactly Mitani’s casual attempt at lacquer techniques that gives his works a lively touch of crudeness.
The pottery and sculptures produced by Mitani also carry the same subtle and understated style of his lacquerwares. However, from a little boat to a ceramic mug, one can always feel a whimsical vibe to his works. In fact, this is the very first time he has showcased his ceramic work during this exhibition at Arts and Science. His humble yet curious personality is fully reflected by the way how he has carefully handled this new medium. Again he demonstrates how meticulously he can steer away from full perfection and reach the right amount of crudeness. This is perhaps why his works are always enchanting.