A revolutionary bird

When I purchased this hashioki in the gift shop of the Tokyo’s Museum of Modern Art I didn’t understand that it was a significant item. All I knew came from a small sign posted beside it: that the hashioki was designed by someone named Masahiro Mori for a company called Hakusan Porcelain.

IMG_1630Over the years I’ve encountered this bird a number of times.  It’s famous in the tiny (no pun intended) world of hashioki. So I was inspired to find out why this hashioki is so venerated.

Hakusan Porcelain is located in Hasami, a town in Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture with a 400 year history of producing ceramics. In the early 1950s a young Japanese man married into the Hakusan family and assumed a leadership role in the company, a common Japanese business practice in families where there are no male heirs. Hakusan’s new leader then happened to attend a lecture by the founder of Panasonic electronics where he announced that the world was at the beginning of the“Design Era,” and he recognized that modern design was a distinguishing factor that could make his company’s products competitive. He discovered there was a person called a “ceramics designer” working in a local government office, and he hired this Masahiro Mori to revamp the Hakusan Porcelain product line .(1)

Mori’s designs revolutionized ceramics in Japan, and helped establish Japan’s international reputation for modern, minimalist design. He worked for Hakusan for 22 years, and helped make that company a leader in ceramics production. Before his death in 2005 Mori also received many international design commendations, including 110 Good Design awards.

This delicately tinted bird hashioki is not as innovative as some of Mori’s other designs, like the sake decanter in the shape of a penquin or the flower vase that looks like a recently hatched egg. But it’s far different from the ornate and gilded ceramics that were prized in Japan before that time, and certainly examplifies Mori’s design philosophy to “… conceive of forms for daily use… [produced] in the factory, so that many people can appreciate and enjoy using them .”(2)

(1) Suzuki, Takafumi.  “Minimalist Ceramics from Traditional Hasami.”  Pingmag.  Downloaded September 8, 2014.  http://pingmag.jp/2008/10/02/hakusan.

(2) Masahiro Mori (ceramic designer).  Wikipedia.  Downloaded September 8, 2014.  http://en.eikipedia.org/wiki/Masahiro Mori (ceramic designer).



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