The past two decades have witnessed a dramatic international recognition of Japanese contemporary ceramics. Some of this attention has come from people interested in contemporary art who have realized the innovative work being done in Japan by ceramic artists. Others have long been interested in Japan and have found themselves intrigued anew by the ways in which Japanese ceramic artists both inherit and transform traditional techniques and forms.
While a traditional male-dominated apprentice system still creates the functional wares that form the everyday encounter with ceramics for most Japanese, there is also an equally vibrant world of studio artists. In this world works are being created by artists in the same spirit of personal fulfillment and self-expression as many American artists and those qualities are more important than utility or commercial success. These two phenomena have intermingled and flourished in post-World War II Japan and today they have led to the creation of a ceramic culture of extraordinary richness and diversity.
Women were never permitted to train in the apprentice system and thus have mostly learned about ceramic techniques in art schools. They have few ties to the old traditions, particularly tea ceramics. Thus, their work tends to be more insistently sculptural, and often inspired by the forms of nature. At the opposite end of the spectrum are male artists who have chosen to learn the painstaking and controlled nature of Chinese and Korean ceramics of the past, but with elegant reinterpretations. Together, Japanese ceramic artists today offer the world a dazzling array of forms, colors, glazes, textures, sizes and functions.
Left: Nishihata, Tadashi Bowl, 2013. Tamba ware. Carol and Jeffrey Horvitz Collection Middle: Fujikasa Satoko, Movement of Nature, 2013. Stoneware. Carol and Jeffrey Horvitz Collection Right: Fukumoto Fuko. Stacked blue and teal bowls, 2012. Glazed porcelain. Carol and Jeffrey Horvitz Collection