If you like contemporary ceramics, you most likely know who Akio Nukaga is. His signature line, “pleated work”, is rustic and modern, simple and beautiful, tactile and practical. It is nearly impossible to find his pottery online because they all get sold out instantly, so the best place to purchase his work is at his exhibitions. This goes for any popular potters in Japan by the way.
So the word on the street was that he is holding a tiny solo exhibition at Starnet Tokyo over the weekend. No way I was going to miss this opportunity.
Starnet Tokyo is the branch of the houseware shop in Mashiko town, which is next to Kasama town where Nukaga's kiln is set up. As a side note, Kasama town is known for pottery from the late 18th century, and it has been developed as one of the leading pottery in the country.
The minute I walked in, I became a kid in the candy shop. Bowls and cups were spread out on the display table casually and as I started to hold each one of them, I fell in love with his work all over again.
After graduating from college (textile design major), Nukaga was working as a carpenter, and became aware of the joy of craftsmanship. His friend introduced him to the world of pottery, and he decided to become a trainee at Ceramics Technology Office in Kasama town. He then continued to study at Kozan kiln in the same town, and became independent when he opened his own studio in the early 90s.
The rest was history. He won many prestigious craft awards in Japan and became ‘the master of traditional craft’ of Kasama ware.
While he was a trainee, he entirely focused on improving his technical skills and did not pay attention too much on his artistic sense. It's probably because he already had a great artistic sense to begin with, but he believes that the creativity and personality will shine through your work naturally, and it is up to the end users to decide whether or not they appreciate your work.
He also believes that his works are meant for everyday use even if it means them getting chipped or worn out. In Japan, there is an appreciation for how appearance of natural materials change with time and use.
There will be another exhibition at Starnet next week, but at main shop in Mashiko city. As of now, I'm just sincerely happy to just stare at the plates and the cups that came home with me.
Check out his masterful techniques of pottery making: