Ceramic Art’s Hidden Gems: 6 Japanese Innovators to Watch


Ceramic Art’s Hidden Gems: 6 Japanese Innovators to Watch

by Hans Liu | CRAFT

© Takuro Kuwata, Ceramic Bowl, Pierre Marie Giraud Gallery

We all know of the stunning beauty of traditional Japanese ceramics. Its Zen principles and craftsmanship have garnered fans from around the world. But Japanese ceramic art actually has so much more to offer, particularly the contemporary artists who are leading the way in creating some of the most awe-inspiring artworks.

What makes Japanese ceramics different to its Western counterparts?  

Ceramic art embodies the cultural essence of the Japanese archipelago: on one hand it is rooted in techniques and materials passed down from centuries-old houses and families. On the other, it stays constant in flux, distilling advanced knowledge and adapting new innovations.

Here are 6 remarkable Japanese ceramic artists who not only excel at their craft, but also exemplify the highly unique characteristics of Japanese ceramic art!


1. The Painstaking Intricacy of Makiko Hattori’s Ceramic Art

© Mikiko Hattori at the Joanna Bird Gallery

Look closely at this vase: the countless buds are each individually crafted from porcelain, which must have required an almost Zen-like meditative repetition. ‘I would be happy if the audience can immediately be drawn into the work before any other explanation because of the visual and tactile impact of the surface,’ says Japanese artist Mikiko Hattori.

This type of artistic expression is unique in many forms of Japanese material culture; the sheer amount of time, dedication, and ingenuity involved is utterly awe-inspiring!    

This piece is available from joannabird.com in London.


2. Breaking the Mold with Takuro Kuwata’s Modern Ceramics

© Takuro Kuwata

This vibrant ceramic tea bowl appears unlike anything else, but the design philosophy is grounded in the Japanese pottery tradition.

Japan’s master potters have long understood the values of simplicity and unpredictability in creating aesthetic beauty. Ceramic Artist Takuro Kuwata has taken these ideas in exciting new directions. Although his ceramics are visually rich, the bold colors envelop the entire piece, giving his work a clear simplicity that is distinctive of Japanese pottery.

Kuwata also brilliantly employs techniques such as shino-yu, where thick surface glaze is allows to crack in unplanned ways, or ishi-haze, where small stones embedded in the clay expand or burst in the kiln leading to unexpected and exciting results. See more of Kuwata’s work at takurokuwata.com. You can also find some of his work at the Pierre Marie Giraud Gallery.


3. Discover Tomoko Konno’s Otherworldly Ceramics

© Tomoko Konno

Ceramic sculpture has a long history in Japan, but the creativity of this artist is pioneering an original path in ceramic art.

This unidentifiable, yet clearly living creature is born of Tomoko Konno’s vivid imagination and technical skill. It takes an extraordinary degree of precision and fine detail to create such a convincing organic form.

After moving to Bali a few years ago, Konno has begun to incorporate new materials, such as glass and wood, and Balinese cultural influences into her work. Check out her site moonxmoon.com for more of her visionary creations!


4. Katsuyo Aoki’s Gothic Porcelain Sculpture

© Katsuyo Aoki, Predictive Dream, Ceramic Sculpture

The skulls of Katsuyo Aoki’s ‘Predictive Dream’ series are fashioned from white porcelain into ornate Rococo swirls.

By celebrating diffuse decorative styles, Aoki aims to instil her work with an intricacy and historical narrative that she finds lacking in contemporary ceramic art.

Aoki’s complete collection of works can be see from her official website.


5. Yuki Hayama’s Ceramics Go Global

© Yuki Hayama at the Ippodo Gallery

You have probably never seen Japanese ceramics like this before!

Master potter Yuki Hayama is renowned for his modern reinterpretations of traditional Japanese themes in blue and white porcelain. But his skills are not limited to native designs.

For this incense burner, Hayama expertly reappropriates an arabesque design with fine gold glaze.

This image is from a recent exhibition of his works at the Ippodo Gallery in New York. Check them out for more from this incredible artisan!


6. Etsuko Tashima’s Luminescent Ceramic Art

© Etsuko Tashima at the Joan B Mirviss Gallery

Heralded as one of Japan’s premier female ceramists, Etsuko Tashima’s enchanting sculpture is a beacon of light!   

What makes this floral ceramic sculpture from the Cornucopia series stand out, even against Tashima’s illustrious 30-year output, is its understated clarity.


The object’s flowing form is gentle but blossoming. The translucent azure petals glow with reflected light. The glass material used here is remarkable as Tashima employs recycled fluorescent light bulbs especially for their cloudy and potent essence. It’s as though a luminous flower is languidly rising up from the deep blue sea.

You can see Etsuko Tashima’s captivating ceramic art in person at the Joan B Mirviss Gallery in New York!

Have you seen any of these artists’ work in person? Let us know what you thought in the comments below!


September 29, 2017 | CraftCeramics