Issue 12 T.O.C. – Masashi Kutsuwa – “The Van Gogh Chair”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Twelve. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is come. 

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Masashi Kutsuwa – “The Van Gogh Chair”

Half a century ago in Granada, Spain, there existed a thriving community of chairmakers who could do their work at breathtaking speed. Half a world away in Japan, the mingei folk-craft movement was taking off as Japanese makers pushed back against the rapid modernization taking place in that country. And through a series of chance encounters, those very different cultural contexts became beautifully intertwined. 


Author, craftsman, and teacher Masashi Kutsuwa has made it his life’s pursuit to preserve old Japanese handcraft traditions. In Issue Twelve, he shares the remarkable story of a craftsman who, seeking a simple chair form to incorporate into the burgeoning handcraft scene in Japan, found what he was looking for in an ancient province in southern Spain. Several chairmakers were willing to share their knowledge, opening the doors for new generations of green woodworkers to explore. 

Here is a video of one such craftsman who shared his mind-blowing chairmaking process.

Decades later, Kutsuwa embarked on a journey to seek out the families of those Spanish chairmakers, and to learn more about how these beautiful and simple chairs came into being. Named for a famous work by a Dutch painter, developed over centuries in Spain, and revived by Japanese craft students, this is an extraordinary story of cultural connection – how our common bond of handcraft can transcend both time and place. 

“Van Gogh’s Chair,” Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

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