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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.