History and future
Encountering the Arts & Crafts Movement in England
In 1986, we moved from Osaka to Okayama.
We wanted to live in the country and change our lifestyle to focus on cabinet making and weaving.
Five years later, in 1991, we lived for a year in England.
Yasu studied cabinet making and it was here that we first became aware of the Arts & Crafts Movement.
We lived in a village in Totnes, Devon, Southwest England.
Since the 1920s, the village of Dartington was centered around the revitalisation of art and craft.
This was started by a wealthy couple, Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst.
They had a passion for social innovation and were inspired by the Nobel Prize Winner, Tagore.
The village was designed around the medieval Manor House, Dartington Hall.
It was wonderful, dotted with art universities, environmental research institutes, art centres and craft shops.
Artists and craftsmen worked together to create guilds as well as their own galleries and shops; music, art and craft were blended into their lives.
Although the village has been attracting attention as an alternative city since that time, Schumacher College was founded there in 1993 after we returned to Japan and has become famous as the birthplace of Transition Town. (2019 amendment)
Encounter with a fateful school building*
We wanted to live like this.
Arts & Crafts Village has been shaped by this idea.
We visited this school building when we returned home from England looking for a large workplace.
“There is an elementary school that is closed, and we might be able to rent it.”
So we went to see it at night.
Driving down the winding, dark roads we thought:
“Is there really an elementary school ahead?”
Suddenly, we could see the beautiful starry sky, the dark mountain creating a hole in the twinkling view and the schoolyard with the cherry tree in full bloom.
It was an impressive meeting, accompanied by the sound of the running river in our ears; some might call it destiny.
Asahi river is a wide river, full of cherry blossom trees.
Our quiet mountain village with a thatched roof could be a wonderful environment for creative activities.
In recent years, many residents have left and in this depopulated village, we feel that we can create a beautiful life that blends nature and art as we found in Dartington in the UK.
What is the Arts & Crafts Movement?
“Arts & Crafts” used to be an unfamiliar term. Now, it refers to a movement that took place in Britain more than 100 years ago.
At the time, the industrial revolution in the UK meant that the machine-based industries flourished, and the handicrafts that began in the Middle Ages were gradually driven to the perimeters.
Advances in technology have deprived workers of creative joy as well as the richness and convenience of life, destroying nature and causing pollution.
Contrary to this technological trend, people who sought the beauty and joy of labor in their lives advocated for the “Restoration of Handicraft” and started the Arts and Crafts Movement.
William Morris is known for his beautiful wallpaper and furniture design. He was a prominent figure in the movement.
Simultaneously, in Japan, a folk craft movement named Mingei, was started by Yanagi Muneyoshi and others. These two movements share similar ideals.
2020 Departure as a new learning building*
It has been 27 years since we opened Arts & Crafts Village in July 1992.
In the meantime, we have been searching for sustainable ways of living, such as natural farming and permaculture, while continuing our activities in our handmade furniture workshop and dyeing and weaving workshops.
Japanese apprentices who have learnt furniture making, dyeing and weaving skills and lifestyles have now spread throughout the country.
In addition, foreign artists who stayed here, creating work and young people who stayed as volunteers have come from various countries and are active internationally.
51 years after being built as a remote school, the former Asahi Town No. 2 Elementary School has been shaped from a small school in the countryside to a place where people who love Japanese handicrafts and young people from around the world gather and learn. Even if it changes, it still plays the role of a “learning house”.
Arts & Crafts Village will be reborn in a new form not only as a workshop, but also as a place to learn new ways of being through the love of handicrafts and seek sustainable ways of living.
First of all, we will use the wood workshop and the dyeing and weaving workshops as shared work spaces.
In addition, we will use vacant rooms in the school building to accommodate artists-in-residence so that we can accept domestic and foreign artists to the Arts & Craft Village.
The is currently being prepared. (Scheduled to start in April 2020)