The Kyoto Kogei Association is a group of artists, mainly active in Kyoto, that exceeds the boundaries of category or identity. The association currently boasts around 350 members involved in a diverse range of art such as dyeing and weaving, ceramics, urushi lacquerwork, metalwork, dollmaking, glassmaking, woodwork, shippo cloisonné, kirikane gold leaf cutting, bamboo crafts, metal and gemstone crafts, and jewelry making. The association was first launched in 1946, with the dyeing and weaving artist Seika Yamaga serving as the first president, and will reach its 75th anniversary in 2021. In terms of history, depth of fields and scale, the association is incomparable to any other organization in Japan. It was formed on the foundations of Kyoto, a city that has generated a long, distinguished history and a diverse range of cultures.
Since its foundation, the association’s artists have built impressive track records based on their exhibitions, and have sought to promote and develop their crafts through mutual devotion to their work, while also nurturing the next generation of artists. The association is also actively engaged in the hosting of exhibitions. In the past, the association has held exhibitions in Tokyo and Fukuoka, and in 2001 and 2018, it held overseas exhibitions in Edinburgh in the UK and Shanghai in China respectively. In 2011 the association displayed at the National Cultural Festival in Nantan City, and in 2015, held the Celebrating 400 Years of Rimpa exhibition alongside the Kyoto Japanese-Style Painters' Association in both Kyoto and Tokyo.
The mutual exchange between the association’s artists and their varying fields of expertise is not simply interaction; it is an opportunity for artists to share their materials, techniques, and expressions. Meanwhile, as the exhibitions are not constrained by a specific category or identity, they provide the artists with a chance to freely demonstrate their individuality. How these exhibitions are used depends on the artist, but as they are deeply involved in artistic activity on a daily basis, there is no doubt that the exhibitions provide them with motivation and clues for new modes of expression.
In recent years, the association’s activities have visibly taken on new vitality. Not only is it working to create works of art bursting with creativity, it is also archiving information related to previous members, and reinforcing its communication capabilities in line with the times. For example, a new website has been set up to link artists with users, and diverse exhibitions are also being held. Communication is one major issue with crafts in Japan, but regardless of the artist’s knowledge of IT, the website is one huge step forward to introducing individual member’s works to the rest of the world. This is one way of raising the standard of arts and crafts in Kyoto, and perhaps it is also a way of communicating the collective Kyoto brand.
Due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been asked to lead new ways of life. However, our lifestyles have always and always will undergo change, and the same change can be expected of the arts and crafts. While valuing the traditional skills and outstanding techniques that Kyoto has inherited, I hope that through its activities, the association can examine a future course for the arts and crafts from a global perspective, and that this will lead to colorful, progressive, and richly creative expressions.
The Museum of Kyoto