Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Four Mashiko Potters at Tokyo Tech

Yesterday, four Mashiko potters gathered at Tokyo Tech and had a panel discussion.  The subject was on thoughts of creating arts. 

Hamada Tomoo, a grandson of Hamada Shoji said he works from 8 am to 5 pm daily and experiments his artistic creation plus producing other products like other craft workers. 

Matsuzaki Ken said he only makes what he wants the way he wants, and in the past, potters tend to regard firing itself beyond own technique, something beyond their control, but he regards his firing as his original creation.  I thought what he said was very interesting.  Firing has been almost like the act of god, but how many woods, how fast or slow the potter can add them to his fire, and I can even imagine many elements potters can vary.  Firing must be very tiring.  They have to babysit their kiln for three days and nights.  They can’t sleep until they are all done.  He also said to make his arts special; he changed his technique from using wheel to hand twist-and-form. 

Murata Hiroshi was the only Tokyo Tech graduate turned a Mashiko artist not only out of the four panelists, but since Hamada Shoji.  He talked examining one word at a time about his thoughts.  He talked the least among the four, and I thought he was like my father. 

Harvey Young is an American artist from Chicago.  He said his large plates were all destroyed in a few minutes when Mashiko was hit by the earthquake a year ago.  We hear a lot about Northeast's devastation, but many other places were also affected like Mashiko.  Harvey replied straightforwardly yes to the question, "Do you think of how you can sell well when you make potteries?"  He also said he thinks about how well his customers can use his products.  The first time his sensei, Mr. Seto, asked Harvey if he remembered how it was like when he sucked his thumb as a child.  Mr. Seto said, "Make it like that."  His words had a great influence on his pottery career. 

All the artists agreed that in their daily life, they use their best products with minor imperfection.  I know they wanted to say more about that, but to general audience, it wasn't easy to explain.  Most inexperienced people just don't buy an expensive pottery with even a minor imperfection.   So, this kind of arts, we need to touch, feel, use it to really appreciate, they said.  But in my opinion, to really understand how good a plate is, we need to pay for it and own it and use it repeatedly.  Anyway, it was very interesting to hear them talk.


ZACL said...
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ZACL said...

I empathize with the thoughts of the potters you describe. they all reflect the different ways of approaching their craft, like potters the world over.

I made a pottery scene once, in a class, my first and only one, which got a lot of interest and positive comment from people outside of the class. Sadly, because of the varying thicknesses within the work, which, are not easy to fire, (I was told)the piece did not survive the firing. I have two other individual pieces that did survive. I remember the pleasure in creating the works, that is enough for me. It may not be okay though, for professionals.

If people take pleasure from what the professionals have produced that must give them good feelings.

I have two items of porcelain made by the same artisan, bought 25 years apart. It was the texture of the second item, a small vase, that emotionally connected me to it. It had the same texture as the first item I bought, which was a small plate.

Most artisans I know, either keep their imperfect pieces or sell them cheaper, if they are not too bad.

Rebb said...

Hi Keiko, I’d like to take a ceramics class. It’s on my list of things to do one of these days. I was thinking about it recently because I’ve going down memory lane a lot and recalled a small little bowl, not a bowl exactly, but a small container that I made in grade school. I was very imperfect, but there was beauty in that—at least, now, looking back.

I found your post interesting. I went to a student ceramics sale a while back. It’s fun to look at all the different styles and pieces. I’ve always admired ceramic objects. Yes, it feels good to touch and feel the ceramics.

Thanks for sharing. Enjoyed it very much.

keiko amano said...


I think most artists must think of balance between their arts and products’ marketability because they have to make their own living. Few don’t need to be concerned about it, but they are rare.

It’s too bad that you lost one piece many people liked in firing process, but at least, it returned to the earth. That’s one of the things I like about potteries and ceramics.

I also have something I' attached to. It is a large handle-less tea cup that has chipped a little, but I can't throw away. I’ll show it to you probably in January.

keiko amano said...


I love this: "was very imperfect, but there was beauty in that." I know that feeling.

There is an endless road to learn and enjoy in ceramics. I don't know much, but every time, I read or come in contact with those authors, I have nothing but admiration. I hope to talk about some little pieces when I return to the U.S.