Monday, September 8, 2008

Shoji Hamada

The work of Shoji Hamada is seemingly simple, yet powerful. He was a large founder of revitalizing the folk pottery tradition in Japan around the 1940's.
Hamada's style is simple, well crafted wares with the air of wabi-sabi in mind. He had mastered in his time a well recognizable technique of dripping his glaze decorations. Many, like this one, have a very calligraphic nature. On this particular piece, Hamada used a wax resist to paint the figures, and dipped the entire piece in a luscious, earthy glaze to contrast the bare clay body that makes up the design. The calligraphic elements are in an uneven sequence, and all touch the mid-line for anchorage. They are reminiscent of animals or human figures. The uneven edges of the linework embody the desired overall sense of wabi-sabi - the beauty in use and naturalness.
Part of the mingei folk pottery tradition is that the works are not directly signed by the artist, but that each artist has their own style distinct enough to set their works apart. Not signing the work directly makes the potter humble. However, all aspects of the pieces are considered, and each piece of pottery usually comes with a box or case that is sometimes signed by the artist.
Hamada was deemed a living national treasure of Japan in the 1950's. His works are understated, yet explicitely graceful, and have freedom of design.

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