Sori Yanagi achieved significantly more than the bridging of East and West in his designs. Active in the postwar era, he created pieces that embodied the optimism of the new industrial age without losing the delicacy and lightness that is so indicative of traditional Japanese design. Yanagi’s sensibilities meshed seamlessly with organic midcentury shapes, appearing repeatedly throughout his prolific career in everything from seating and lighting to flatware and teakettles.
Beyond merely updating traditional Japanese forms for the modern age, Yanagi transformed raw materials into objects of functional poetry, drawing inspiration from nature, like the butterfly in his stool of the same name. “True beauty is not made; it is born naturally,” Yanagi believed.
His Butterfly Stool, designed in the same era as iconic furniture from Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson, embodies the perfect fusion of Eastern aesthetics and Western technology. Constructed of two identical molded plywood forms held together with a simple brass stretcher, it could be likened to Japanese haiku – succinct, graceful and atmospheric.