The Meet the Artisan project is yet another project inspired during COVID related lockdown here in Melbourne ~ it is a Taste with the Toji ‘spin-off’ series with a strong focus on Japanese pottery; showcasing current potters working in Japan and keeping tradition and culture alive through their work. Pottery culture in Japan, of course, has a strong connection to Sake culture, hence this being the perfect project to compliment the popular Sake focused series, Taste with the Toji.
The seed for the Meet the Artisan project was planted when, during an online Sake Social event I organised in July 2020, participant and pottery expert, Robert Yellin gave attendees a short, impromptu virtual tour of his beautiful gallery: Robert Yellin Yakimono Gallery. I then suggested we should do a session dedicated to pottery for the Taste with the Toji audience, as the connection between the two ‘crafts’ or ‘cultures’ of Sake & Pottery were intwined in many important and beautiful ways.
On 18 August, Robert treated the TWTT audience to a wonderful presentation on Bizen Pottery as well as touching on the broader, general history of pottery in Japan. From there, the interest grew, from both myself and the wider TWTT audience. I asked Robert whether he thought a Meet the Artisan series was something we could collaborate on, giving some of the pottery ‘artisans’ of Japan a chance to tell their story and present their work to an audience that may otherwise not have the chance to be introduced to their work and/or hear their story. With Robert’s enthusiasm and assistance, we were able to launch the Meet the Artisan series on 31 August, with session 1 featuring Bizen potter, Jumpei Kaneshige.
Meet the Artisan session information and overviews will be updated below, with the most recent session/s at the top of the feed. Please scroll down for earlier sessions.
For more information on Japanese pottery in general, I highly recommend visiting Robert Yellin’s website here.
About the Artisan: Takehito Nakajima was born in Kaga City (Yamanaka) Ishikawa in 1969.
Nakajima was born and raised in Kaga City, Ishikawa Prefecture and studied under his father, learning the craft of Yamanaka lacquerware, one of the town’s traditional crafts.
Nakajima is also a lover of sake and, amongst his creations, he crafts a lot of sake cups. Nakajima has created many prototypes of sake cups to study and perfect the thinness of the lip/mouth, the angle of the body, and the difference in the warp of the edges. He says he likes to study how the sake cup touches the mouth and how the aroma and taste of sake change.
Session overview: Session 4 of Meet the Artisan took place on Thursday 15 April 2021.
Nakajima’s work was first brought to my attention at the beginning of the year by the fabulous Hannah Kirshner, whose book Water, Wood and Wild Things was not only recently released, but also features a chapter on Nakajima: one of the talented artisans hailing from the town of Yamanaka in Ishikawa Prefecture.
Alongside Nakajima-san, for this session, we were fortunate to be joined by Hannah, and also by two other fascinating Yamanaka gems: 下木雄介 (Yusuke Shimoki), the incredibly passionate and knowledgeable owner of Engawa Washu Bar, an 8-seater sake-focused bar, and it was great to have 松浦文昭 (Fumiaki Matsuura) from Matsuura Shuzo join us too. Matsuura Shuzo were the featured brewery for TWTT Session #33 last month. Both Shimoki-san and Matsuura-san also feature in Hannah’s book and it was a delight to have them all join us for this session, sharing their passion, knowledge and connection. A wonderful ‘Yamanaka’ event!
This was the first wood craftsperson to be featured on MTA and it was a real treat to have Hannah and Nakajima-san give us a tour of the his studio and also have Nakajima-san give us a live woodturning demonstration. Sitting in the cockpit at his lathe, Nakajima-san turned and worked the wood with such rhythm, skill and precision, making something that would be both dangerous and difficult for most, look easy and effortless.
This was truly a wonderful event and a great insight into the craft of Yamanaka woodturning.
About the Artisan: Yoshiko Takahashi was born in Shigaraki, Shiga in 1988.
After she finished in College, in 2010, she studied ceramics at Kyoto Prefectural Ceramicists Technical Institute for two years.
She then studied for another year at Shigaraki Ceramic Research Institute.
After that she took a job at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park as a studio technician in the Artists in Residency department for three years.
She currently lives and works in Shigaraki and regularly exhibits in high end department stores and galleries in Japan.
Session overview: Session 3 of Meet the Artisan took place on Thursday 19 November, 2020.
An absolutely delightful session with an extremely well thought out and insightful presentation from Shigaraki potter, Yoshiko Takahashi, delving into the history of Shigaraki ware, Rakusai pottery, Shigaraki clay, a variety of kilns and a fascinating family history.
It was a privilege to not only hear from Yoshiko-san, but to also meet both her father and her 95 year old, (still actively potting), grandfather during this very special session. What a treat!
These Meet the Artisan sessions are such a wonderful, welcome and complimentary extension of the Taste with the Tōji series, filled with history and beauty, and it’s been a joy to collaborate with Robert Yellin or these online pottery-centric sessions.
A huge thank you to Yoshiko Takahashi for sharing her time, passion and a fascinating presentation with all who attended. Thank you again to Robert, and of course, as always, thank you so much to all who attended the Zoom room or watched the session on Facebook.
I truly hope people will continue to support these wonderfully talented young artists who are striving to keep tradition alive.
About the Artisan: Teppei Terada was born in 1975 and is the 5th generation of a well recognised potter family who continue to maintain a tradition inherited from 100 years ago.
Teppei works in a number of different styles, including Oribe-yaki (織部焼) which is a style of Japanese pottery that first appeared in the sixteenth century. Oribe is a visual style named after the late-16th-century tea master Furuta Oribe (1544-1615). It’s most often seen in pottery, but extends to textiles and paintings.
Session overview: Session 2 of Meet the Artisan took place on Thursday 8 October, 2020, as we were joined Teppei Terada (5th generation potter from Seto, Aichi Prefecture).
A wonderfully well thought out, educational and most enjoyable presentation from Teppei, touching on the history of pottery in Japan, the origin of Seto pottery, a wonderful family lineage, kiln building and firing, inspirations and ambitions. Teppei’s passion for his craft and respect for its (and his family) history burst through our screens as he treated us to a delightful 2 hour session.
There was even a spontaneous cameo appearance from Teppei’s father towards the end of the session ~ or as Teppei described it, “a happy accident” (just like some of his works after firing).
Teppei is also quite a passionate fan/drinker of Sake and told us little about his relationship/connection with this favourite brew. He showed us a number of drinking and serving/pouring vessels, in different styles, including some beautiful Oribe-yaki and of course his wonderfully creative birds: posing as Sake pitchers, serving Sake straight from their beaks ~ lots of fun!
He is also studying the art of the Japanese tea ceremony and makes various tea ware in a number of styles.
Thank you so much to Teppei Terada for a great session and of course, again, to Robert Yellin for being a fabulous co-host and helping this project come together. Thank you also to everyone who attended.
About the Artisan: Kaneshige was born in 1972. He currently lives and works in Bizen and hails from a long and famous Bizen lineage. His father: Kosuke, grandfather: Toyo, along with uncles and cousins, are/were all Bizen potters. In pottery terms, the Kaneshige family is hailed as the most important Bizen family. After graduating from Waseda University in 1994, he studied Sculpture at Graduate School in Long Island University in U.S.A. (graduating in 2000).
Japanese pottery has a long history and connection with Sake culture and Bizen is certainly no exception. The clay for many Bizen pieces is sourced from rice paddies – no greater connection to Sake than rice!
Session overview: Session 1 of Meet the Artisan took place on Monday 31 August, 2020, and saw us visit the studio of Jumpei Kaneshige in Bizen, Okayama.
It was such an honour to spend two hours with Jumpei and hear about his life, his craft and his incredible (and long) Kaneshige family history in Bizen pottery ~ one of royal proportions in the pottery world. Jumpei presented a wonderful series of images (and explanations) that took a closer look at Bizen clay, from sourcing to preparation, and of course the incredible art of wood firing, showing the process from loading the kiln to firing and the final product/s after firing and the incredibly beautiful effects from the ash. A truly fascinating insight into the life of a Bizen potter and his family history.
A big thank you Jumpei for a most informative session and for sharing his time, passion and humour with all who attended. An extended thank you to Robert Yellin who is such a pleasure to collaborate with on this wonderful project.
Finally, thank you so much to all who joined this session – from all over the world.
It’s so wonderful to see a growing online community connecting through ‘culture’ – Sake and pottery alike – during this current situation.
May the knowledge we gather and connections we make continue to grow, even beyond this current ‘climate’