It is a great pleasure to be presenting films from the Mingei Film Archive Project at NCECA for the first time in two events to take place on March 28th in the Main Auditorium.

As part of the panel Holding Space, Embracing Place (10:45~12:15)

Onda 1954 will be shown. This is a very rare film, likely never seen outside Japan until I discovered it a few years ago during a visit to a government office in southern Japan. A new commentary on the lives and work of the Onda potters was recorded with potter Sakamoto Shigeki who also appeared in my film Potters at Work (1976).

Over the lunch hour (12:15~1:10) Ceramics Curator and Historian Susan Jefferies, consultant to the Mingei Film Archive, will introduce the following films:

  • Warren MacKenzie Films The Leach Pottery, 1953
  • The Onggi Potters of Korea, 1925
  • The Mingei Potters of Okinawa, 1940
  • Interview with Shoji Hamada, 1970

The Mingei Film Archive is an ongoing project to restore, enhance and preserve films and recordings documenting the history of Japan’s Mingei Movement and its ongoing legacy in the world of contemporary ceramics.

Over the past few years I have been supervising the restoration and re-mastering of a vast collection of films from Korea, Japan, the US and England, covering the period 1925~1976.

All films in the collection are being enhanced with new narratives using the recorded voices of people with direct knowledge of the life and working processes shown in the films.  Commentaries are in English, Japanese and Korean. 

The archive now consists of over 50 hours of films covering all aspects of pottery-making processes and many of the key figures in ceramics of the 20th century. Over the years I have also collected 100s of hours of rare audio recordings and 100s of historic still photographs from around the world. 

While researching and collecting these films, I have also rescued many hours of unedited footage from important films. This footage is being shaped into new short films revealing hitherto unseen moments in the history of 20th century ceramics.

For example, culling through more than nine hours of outtakes from The Art of the Potter (1970) by David Outerbridge and Sidney Reichman, I have reconstructed the final interview with Bernard Leach and the only English-language interview with Hamada Shoji. Many more films from this unseen footage are now being shaped into new films. 

This project originated in 1975 when Bernard Leach gave me the films he had made in Japan, Korea and Manchuria in 1934~35, along with several important16mm films he had collected over his long career.

Bernard Leach and Yanagi Soetsu (author of The Unknown Craftsman, 1972) travelled throughout Japan and Korea together in 1934-35. It was during these visits that Leach made his films of rural life and crafts and various other subjects. Leach entrusted me with the films which I have kept in my basement in Toronto, Canada for over 40 years. Over the past few years I have restored and digitally re-mastered these very delicate materials so that we will now have the rare privilege of seeing what Leach, Yanagi, Hamada Shoji and others were actually looking at when they formed the ideas of the Mingei Movement. 

In the more than forty years since first meeting Bernard Leach, I collected and preserved many more films on the crafts of Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Figures seen and/or heard in the films include Bernard Leach, Hamada Shoji, Yanagi Soetsu, Kawai Kanjiro, Sakuma Totaro, Sakamoto Shigeki, Ohta Kumao, Warren MacKenzie, Bill Marshall, Janet Leach, John Bedding, Michael Cardew and many more.

The final goal of the Mingei Film Archive is to create a fully searchable digital archive for educational and cultural institutions and interested individuals.

A complete list of current films is available on request.

For more information and to see recent events related to the Mingei Film Archive please see:

Several short films are available for viewing now:

To see our other films on pottery:

and our other films on Japan:

Marty Gross


Toronto, Canada