Review Of "Inspired Shapes: Contemporary Designs For Japan's Ancient Crafts" By O. Koyama, Translated By C. Whipple

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Koyama's book has beautiful photographs of exquisite objects; it is more an exhibition catalog in character, with slim commentaries that are hardly inspired. It introduces some 40 designers with one or two exemplary works from each; thumbnail biographies appear as an appendix. Given the subject, one expects a thesis of some sort, a theoretical, historical, and/or sociological explanation of the sudden discovery of old crafts by designers first trained in modern design at home or abroad, and the adventurous search for new forms by others born into and continuing old family traditions. But that is left to the reader to deduce or decipher, and so are such design issues as how the modern form is adapted to or shaped by the demands of the old craft or what exactly is the Japanese sensibility that persists in these new designs. The details are stunning but overblown and often fail to inform. It is, indeed, hard to imagine the readership for which the book was published, except some Japanophiles for their coffee tables. Advisedly recommended for design libraries. Summing Up: Optional. General readers.


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