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While in Japan we took the train to Nagoya and then drove to a city called Toyota, in the Aichi Prefecture, to meet with artist Katase Kazuhiro. We met at his studio, which he calls "Zahen shinpen", which roughly means "Objects around us within reach". Beautiful artistic space for him to display his works of art. He carefully showed us his pieces that we were immediately impressed with.

As we were leaving he mentioned that he has an exhibition in Shibuya, Tokyo the following week. I called my very artistic friend Mari from school days, and asked her if she wanted to go to the exhibition with me. She happily agreed. Mari and I went to American school in Japan together until we were 13. Since then we have lived apart in different countries but somehow when we reunited so many years later, it seemed our passion for life - beautiful objects, art, food… grew in the same direction. So I was curious to see her reaction to his work as I totally trust her taste.

At the exhibition Mari seemed to be impressed. After looking at his work in detail, we went to a cute wine bar next door to have a drink. Mari then said that she was impressed by two things. ‘His lovely pastel colors on such thick ceramic which seemed contradicting but so attractive. The ‘cracked technique’ was also interesting’. The other thing she was impressed with was the beautiful dark objects such as the vases and tea pots. ‘The strong texture and shapes and dark color were so impactful that I could imagine what a beautiful contrast it would make with a bright flower put in...or a delicate tea poured'. She also mentioned she believes his work would look really well in a western environment - Big tables in a spacious dining room in the countryside, or a Parisian apartment with white walls and tall windows...

The more I go back and look at his work, the more I fall in love with them…. His pieces are not only beautiful ‘art’ pieces but they are also practical to use. I can’t wait to throw a dinner party using some of his beautiful items and see how my friends react.

Here is my interview Katase Kazuhiro:

Q: How did you start getting involved in making pottery?

A: When I was studying at a local library, aiming to go to university, I came across a pottery exhibition taking place there. Talking to the artist who happened to be present, really inspired me to try pottery myself.
I don’t think he was a professional artist and I don’t even remember his name but he was the key person that made me begin.

大学進学を目指して、地元の図書館で勉強していた時に、たまたまやっていた陶器の個展を見て、その方と話しているうちにやってみたくなり、その時の直感で決めました。
田舎の図書館で展示会をするような方なので、趣味レベルだっただろうし、実際、今でもそれが誰だったかはわかりません。

Q: I know in Japan there are many different types of pottery. Can you let the readers know a bit about your type of pottery and the technique involved?

A: I use two different techniques, as well as adding my own style in the details.

1. Casting
I knead muddy clay and pour it into the plaster mold. The plaster absorbs the moisture of the mud and it thickens, then washes the mud inside.

2. Hand kneading
This is the most primitive technique allowing me freedom to create whatever I like.
I use soil and bake many times till I am satisfied with the result.

細かい所は自己流なのですが、大まかに二つの技法を使っています。

ひとつは、鋳込み成形です。
粘土を泥状にして、石膏型に流し込み、石膏が泥の水分を吸って厚みをつけたところで、中の泥を流すというものです。

もうひとつは、手捻り成形です。
もっとも原始的な方法です。好きなように作るだけです。
ただ土は原土を使ったり、何度も焼いて、納得する質感をだしていきます。

Q: Can you explain to the readers the meaning of the Japanese word ‘utsuwa’, (bowl, vessel in English)?

A: For me UTSUWA is not an art but a tool, an object with function. If people think it is an art, that is also fine with me.

器はやはり、アートではなくて、道具だと思っています。でも見る人がアートだと思うなら、それでいいです。

Q: What is most important to you, when making the pottery?

In my mind, I am making a tool so to speak, so it has to be practical and useful.

道具を作っている認識なので、用途が必要です。

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

A: A potter relies on the result of baking in the kiln. It can be completely accidental, a chance product. This surprise element is always exciting...and I test time and time again, choosing which will be a finished piece once out of the kiln.

どこまでいっても、焼物は焼くことに委ねるので、偶然の産物だと思っています。
手を動かして、何度もテストして、その中で、焼いて好きか、嫌いかです。
その好き、嫌いをはっきりさせるために、いろんなものを見ておきたいです。

________________

Zahen Shinpen
http://zahenshinpen.com
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