Kim Schuefftan, former Arts Editor at Kodansha International publishers has died.

Kim was 84 years old when he died at his home in Gunma Prefecture, Japan on May 22nd, 2021. We are deeply saddened by this news and invite you to read the tribute below by Marty Gross of Marty Gross Film Productions Inc. & The Mingei Film Archive.

Kim was the editor of The Unknown Craftsman by Yanagi Soetsu and Hamada: Potter by Bernard Leach, both essential texts in the history of the Mingei Movement and The Leach Pottery. He was also responsible for important books on New Mexico potter Maria Martinez, and many more on Japanese textiles and cuisine.

He was not the author but he was the driving force behind the preparation, design and realisation of these works. The books Kim Schuefftan worked so hard on had a profound and lasting impact on thinking about crafts in the 20th century and beyond.

During his long career in Japan, Kim maintained passion for his work and for crafts. He could be cantankerous and prickly while trying to get everything “just right” but his committment to crafts was unwaivering. He regularly got into trouble with his publishers for overspending, especially when he insisted that the two books by Yanagi and Leach be finished with handmade “momigami” paper covers and handscreened with Japanese lacquer.

Bernard and Janet Leach had long associations with Kim Schuefftan who helped them in many ways during their visits to Japan. It was Kim, I believe, who suggested that Bernard write Hamada: Potter as a tribute to his great friend. In 1973 Kim visited St Ives to work with Bernard on the editing of Hamada: Potter. With Bernard’s eyesight failing, Kim read passages of the text aloud and suggested revisions as part of their editorial collaboration. 

On this same visit to St Ives, using a Super 8 movie camera for the first time, Kim filmed scenes of the activities at The Leach Pottery. Several years ago he gave me this unseen footage from which I made a new film, adding commentary by John Bedding. We call this film, A Visit to The Leach Pottery, 1973.  Kim became very emotional upon hearing that the film was shown online as a special presentation during the 100th Anniversary Celebrations of the Leach Pottery last year. 

Kim cherished the memories of the years he spent working with Janet and Bernard and felt they were a highlight of his career. 

In 1973 Kim encouraged Bernard and Janet to visit the small lacquer-making town of Wajima on the West coast of Japan. Presented in this tribute are photographs from that trip along with two more recent photos.

All of us who have learned so much from the arts and crafts culture of Japan owe Kim Schuefftan a great debt of gratitude. 

We thank you, dear friend. Your works are a precious legacy.

Marty Gross, Toronto, Canada, May 27, 2021

One thought on “Kim Schuefftan, former Arts Editor at Kodansha International publishers has died.

  1. I met Kim Schuefftan in 1955 when we were both students at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Kim’s parents were both studio musicians in Hollywood, I believe, and as I remember, Kim didn’t have an especially happy childhood.

    I’m not sure whether Kim graduated from Reed. I certainly didn’t, but we both lived in the same dorm, and he taught me a lot about folk music, particularly the music of other countries. Kim had a marvelous sense of humor and an off-the-wall way of expressing himself. We laughed a lot, although I think he was quite sad, deep down.

    After Reed, the next time Kim and I met was in Los Angeles. On that day Kim was dressed all in black. My wife, JoAnne, was with me, and we were both a little shocked when Kim told us he was gay. I hadn’t realized that at Reed, and I suspect he didn’t either.

    Later, Kim followed a lover to Japan and continued to live there for the rest of his life. He’d occasionally come back to the U.S., and he visited us here in Stockton (California) a couple of times. Kim and I kept up a regular correspondence until the end of his life. He wrote great letters, always with offbeat comments and nonsense.

    JoAnne did some genealogical research on Kim’s family, and although he thought he had no living relatives, Jo found some in Nevada. On one of his trips to Stockton, Kim took a detour to Nevada and visited them. I think he very much enjoyed meeting them.

    Before Kim died, a mutual friend from college, Murray Adelman, passed away. Murray fell off a wall while vacationing in Spain. Kim and I agreed that Murray’s death was both sad and just a little funny. And then came announcement of Kim’s death. That news was much sadder. I miss him – and especially his sense of silliness.


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