It’s no secret that Yannick and I are fans of Mashiko Pottery, so when I heard that they were going to be showing at the Earl’s Court Craft/Home/Top Drawer exhibition I emailed him right away and we both got very excited. I wrote about some of the other stalls we visited in my last post, but Mashiko deserves a post all of its own.
We first encountered Mashiko Pottery at the London Design Festival in 2012 (see what I wrote about that show here) and we were bowled over. We weren’t the only ones – their pots subsequently went on sale at the V&A Museum shop and the Courtauld Gallery shop, where they have now completely sold out (except for maybe the odd cup or two at the V&A if you move really quickly). Hopefully with this latest visit to the UK both galleries will be restocking with fresh supplies.
Mashiko is a town in Tochigi Prefecture, just north of Tokyo. It came to fame through the ceramics master Shoji Hamada, who met Bernard Leach in Tokyo and came to the UK with him, helping him choose a site for his pottery at St Ives and set up his first traditional Japanese wood-burning kiln. Hamada spent three years at St Ives, strongly influencing Leach in the development of the simple, honest style of pottery that has become associated with his name.
On his return to Japan in 1923 Shoji Hamada continued to develop the style, settling in Mashiko and becoming one of the main founders of the “Mingei” (Arts and Craft) Movement. He was designated a Living National Treasure in 1955.
The Tohoku earthquake hit Mashiko hard. Many kilns were destroyed and forty percent of the works by Shoji Hamada held in the museum in the town were smashed. It was particularly sad to lose the traditional ‘climbing kilns’, built into the hillside which are the soul of Mashiko Pottery. They’ve been working ever since to rebuild their lives and their traditional industry, and still hold their regular pottery festivals twice a year, in May and November.
The Mashiko range including platters, jugs, tea sets, serving bowls, plates, teacups and sake cups. On show at Earl’s Court were works by individual artists and pottery produced by the many pottery studios that fill the town. It is characteristically thick and sturdy, glazed in predominately earth tones like brown, black, white, persimmon, and amber, or celadon (a sort of light turquoise-green).
I was very attracted by the work of Fujiya Sakuma ( who is also the representative of the
Mashiko Support Centre for Pottery, leading the work to restore Mashiko after the earthquake) and the piece I would most like to have taken away with me (it wasn’t a selling exhibition, unfortunately) was this sake cup by him.
This square dish is also by Sakuma.
The flower-decorated teapot is by Iwao Otsuka.
I also loved these sake cups, especially the one in front in a white glaze with with black poured decoration.
This set of cups and dishes (Inoue) has just the earthy, honest feel that I associate with Mashiko.
As do these rectangular plates (Wada).
This cherry-blossom decorated bowl (Kajiura) matches the one at the top of this post.
In case you’re wondering, these brushwork decorated mugs (Rihei) are what took Yannick’s eye.
By the way, if you’d like to get better acquainted with Yannick, my frequent companion on my forays into Japanese art and craft, you can find out more about him on his blog, In Search of Lost Time(s).