A Design Pioneer

Sori Yanagi

(1915 - 2011)

Sori Yanagi was born as a son of the Japanese Folk Crafts Museum founder, Soetsu Yanagi, in 1915. His father, a renowned Japanese philosopher and art critic, founded the Mingei Folk craft movement which espoused that beauty could be found in common utilitarian wares created by anonymous craftsmen using natural and local materials utilizing traditional designs and methods. Growing up under his Father’s tutelage directly informed Sori Yanagi’s philosophy as he bridged the gap between folk art and modernism.  

Sori Yanagi initially enrolled to study painting at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 1934, but was soon pulled in the direction of design after seeing the work of the Bauhaus movement and Le Corbusier. Upon graduation in 1940 he worked for the Japan Industrial Craft Export Corporation directly assisting designer Charlotte Perriand - a colleague of Le Corbusier. This ended abruptly when World War II began and Yanagi was sent by the Japanese army to the Philippines to work for their advertising team. 

Upon his return to Japan following the devastation of the war, Yanagi wasted not time returning to design. His work process always began with the physical forming of 3D models which he fashioned much like a sculpture refining them until he was satisfied. It was through this process that he was able to bring an intuituve feel to design that was inherent in its function.

Sori Yanagi's designs have received numerous accolades throughout the years with many still in production today. His ability to bring together the world of craft and industry has been his ultimate legacy.

“I try to create things that we human beings feel are useful in our daily lives. During the process, beauty is born naturally.”

- Sori Yanagi