Japan’s masters of clay revealed

Follow photographer Peter Weld as he visits the captivating pottery villages around Kyushu.

[↑] Fifth-generation ceramic artist Kozan Ichikawa, whose studio is in Okawachiyama, is a master indeed: He’s the only person in Japan to have received all three of the pottery certifications conferred by Japan’s Traditional Arts Association.

[↑] Porcelain production in Japan began about 400 years ago, when the essential ingredient, kaolin, was discovered in the hills of Saga. Except for an electric wheel, Ichikawa uses the same materials and techniques as his ancestors did.

[↑] Late at night, by the light of a bare bulb, Kozan Ichikawa paints a delicate design on a pitcher. After firing, the greenish paint transforms into the vivid blue generally associated with east Asian porcelain.

[↑] Kazuhiko Uchikoshi worked at another kiln for more than 20 years before opening his own studio, Hinatagama, in a centuries-old barn near the coastal town of Yobuko. Here he decorates a cup with a grape motif before firing it.

[↑] At the age of 82, Katsumi Eguchi shows no signs of slowing down. At his studio, Oyamajigama, near the town of Takeo Onsen, he uses washi (Japanese paper) to paint onto his pottery.

[↑] The earthy, chunky pottery known as Karatsuyaki has always been used to produce everyday items for common folk (while porcelain was produced for the nobility). Everywhere you eat, your food is likely to be served on Karatsuyaki.


Text and photos Peter Weld


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