natural materials (237)

Wonderful Houses Around the World

Yesterday I read in the paper that sales of children’s books are booming, due to schools being closed. This brought to mind our one and only children’s book, Wonderful Houses Around the World, by photographer Yoshio Komatsu and artist Akira Nishiyama.

There are 10 photographs by Yoshio of homes in different parts of the world. All the homes are built of natural materials — earth, wood, thatch, sod, bamboo, and stone.

Each photo is followed by a watercolor drawing of the inside of that home, showing the children and their parents going about their everyday activities: food gathering and processing, cooking, sleeping, working and playing.

The book is timely in this day and age: it shows what people do in their homes. Timely also because it’s great educational material for kids being home-schooled: look at what what kids your age are doing in other parts of the planet.

Yoshio is my favorite photographer of homes in the world. Not only are the homes invariably soulful, but his composition and lighting are perfect — and he has a knack for making people feel comfortable, so that the homeowners look natural, often laughing.

The book is $12.95 and you can order it through your independent bookstore, or from:

Note: We have a money-back guarantee on all of our books (no matter where you buy them). If for any reason you are dissatisfied, call us and we’ll return the full purchase price plus shipping. No need to return the book.

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Handcrafted Homes in Pennsylvania Woods

A terrific article in today’s NYTimes (3/16/20) online by Michael Snyder, with great photos by Chris Mottalini.

Everything about this story and the photos struck me as right. I felt at home here. I love the rumpled bed in the second photo. I also like the idea of an “alternative to modernism.” 

How Two Children Are Keeping Their Father’s Design Legacy Alive

A pair of Pennsylvania homes constructed by the Japanese-American furniture designer George Nakashima have become an enduring testament to mid-century folk craft.

“From 1946, when he founded his studio on a three-acre plot in New Hope, a historic artist’s colony halfway between New York City and Philadelphia, to his death in 1990 at the age of 85, Nakashima devoted his life to transforming slabs of walnut, cherry, burled maple and redwood into coffee tables shaped like pools of water, Shaker-style chairs with hand-whittled spindles and dining-room tables fashioned from slices of tree trunks, their cracks and seams bridged with joints like butterflies caught in amber. ‘He felt his work was a form of integral yoga: How you work and live is all connected,’ his daughter, Mira, 78, told me on a damp, gray morning last fall while showing me around the grounds of the studio, which she has run since her father’s death. Organic, improvisational and individual, the tens of thousands of objects he made in the course of his lifetime were also functional, meant for daily use; they were, Mira says, “the antithesis of Modernism, a protest against mass production.”

“But the homes where Mira and Kevin live, patinated and imperfect and crowded with debris, more fully capture the spirit of mingei. Less an antithesis to Modernism than an alternative to it, such projects embraced 20th-century idioms while refusing to accept industrial mass production as the fundamental fact of modernity. ‘Dad always said that building furniture was just like architecture but smaller,’ Mira says. In his houses for his children, the opposite holds true: Like Nakashima’s tables and chairs, they can be read as works of folk art, useful objects that, as Yanagi wrote, ‘honestly fulfill the practical purpose for which they were made.’”

www.nytimes.com/2020/03/16/t-magazine/george-nakashima-legacy.html

Article sent us by Elizabeth Kirkland

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“Tree of Life” Window

From Uncle Mud, who wrote: “I’m off to the mountains of Jamaica to teach mud building again next week. The village of Nine Mile is very sweet to us. The little kids call me ‘Meesta Mood’. People there make $20 a day but a sack of cement costs $10 so no one every finishes their house. When we were there in 2018 we taught them how to make windows out of bottles that get thrown by the side of the road, putting up a rough ‘Tree of Life’ window in the dead of night before our flight home. When we came back in 2019 we were treated to this lovely view of the finished window.”

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