With the London Design Festival in full swing I’m rushing around London like a mad thing. Yesterday my friend Yannick and I went to see one of my top-of-the-list exhibitions; Mashiko Pottery who are showing at Tent in Hanbury Street until 23 September.
Fortunately we decided to go early in the morning (well, ten o’clock counts as early for me) before the crowds built up so we were able to stroll around the stands (and there’s lots of them) in relative peace. We soon found Mashiko Pottery on a corner stand at the top of the stairs where the pottery was elegantly displayed, poised on pale wooden beams lit by overhead shafts of light.
We had to go and have a coffee to calm our beating hearts and then we went back, insisting to each other that we were not going to buy any. Bound to be far too expensive, we said. But they weren’t – prices of the pieces we enquired about ranged from a very affordable £20 to around £50 for works by specific artists. What can I say? We gave into temptation. Wouldn’t you?
Actually, you can. There’s still one day left at Tent if you move fast. If you miss it, don’t despair. We discovered that Mashiko Pottery is going to be stocked at the Courtauld Gallery shop at prices they promised to keep as reasonable as possible. Mashiko don’t normally export or sell through other shops – in Japan if you want Mashiko Pottery you visit Mashiko to buy it. So London is very honored.
Mashiko ( a village north of Tokyo not far from Nikko) began producing pottery using local clay in 1853 and by 1910 had become the main source of pottery for the whole Kanto region. But it was in 1924 that Living National Treasure Shoji Hamada created what we now think of as Mashiko Pottery, drawing on his experiences of working with Bernard Leach in St Ives and establishing the principle of beauty in everyday life. The pots are hand turned on a potter’s wheel and then decorated with brush strokes and traditional Mashiko colored glazes.
Sadly the four hundred kilns in Mashiko were badly damaged in the Great Tohoku Earthquake in March 2011. Many were completely destroyed, including Hamada’s noborigama and salt glaze kilns, along with the Mashiko Reference Museum which contained much of his original work. But they are determined to rebuild, aided by a donation of £34,000 raised by the Leach Pottery which retains strong links with Mashiko.
I bet you’re wondering what we bought. Well, I bought this dish because I loved its simplicity: