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b. benten is the online shop for high quality handmade ceramics and houseware items from Japan rooted in tradition for everyday use. Our mission is to introduce Japan's master artisans to the world by offering their limited work and covering fascinating stories of craftsmanship.

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Filtering by Tag: pottery

Tsutomu Masuda: The Coming of Summer

Maya Nakamura

Kamakura is probably my favorite city in Japan.  It is by the ocean and there are dozens of old Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines in this area.  It is a popular old-fashioned resort town with lovely little cafes and gallery shops everywhere.  If you ever come to Japan, please make sure to swing by. 

So I heard my beloved potter, Tsutomu Masuda, is having an exhibition in Kamakura to celebrate the coming of summer.  

via  vuori  

via vuori 

The exhibition was at the cafe/gallery called, Vuori, right off Hase station.  Super cute.

Vuori  1-15-1 Hase, Kamakura 248-0016, Kanagawa

Vuori  1-15-1 Hase, Kamakura 248-0016, Kanagawa

The first floor is the cafe and the second floor is the gallery space.  the first floor is so nice, but I was too excited to check out the exhibition, so I immediately walked up to the second floor when I got there with so much anticipation.   

And there, I could instantly spot Masuda chatting away with his fellow wood artist, Takashi Miyashita in the corner.  Photos were not allowed in the gallery unfortunately, so I'm borrowing the photos below from their website.  

 

Vuori 2nd floor gallery (via  vuori ) 

Vuori 2nd floor gallery (via vuori

By looking at his charming smile with flip up sunglasses and slightly messy grey hair, Masuda looked like such a lovely guy, and his pottery reflects his warm down-to-earth personality.  

I started to take plates and bowls shamelessly, and spread them out on the table to decide which ones I will take home.   By the way, this is what you normally do at any pottery shops in Japan.  You take the items you are interested in, and place them onto a "display table" so you can evaluate them and decide whether or not you will purchase them.   

So as I'm smiling at the plates and bowls that I selected, the sweet lady from the gallery insisted that she'd introduce me to Masuda.  Well twist. my. arm. 

I had such a pleasure talking to him about everything from his kiln to his love for jazz.  What I learned is that he was an art teacher.  He actually taught himself to make pottery using traditional methods like glazes, brushstrokes and powdered appearance.  He currently resides and make pottery in Tsukui, the far northwestern corner of Kanagawa prefecture, which is known for their artist community.  (It is like Hudson, NY in my mind)  

His pottery is simple and functional, he explained.  It is meant to be used everyday and easy to mix an match with your existing dinnerware and blends into all kinds of settings.    

 

These are particularly my favorite items from the exhibition. 

As I exited the gallery, I felt a breeze came from the ocean with a hint of summer fondly.   

It was a perfect Sunday afternoon.  

 

 

 

Akio Nukaga: The Master of Kasama

Maya Nakamura

If you are into 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 get sold out instantly, so I was super excited to find his exhibitions and get my hands on his work.  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 housewares shop in Mashiko town, which is next to Kasama town where Nukaga's kiln is.  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.

So...  the minute I walked into the Starnet Tokyo, I was nothing but a kid in the candy shop.   Bowls and cups were spread out on the table casually, so I started to hold his work in my hand, and fell in love with each one of them.  

So who is Akio Nukaga?   Here is a quick break down -  After graduating from college (textile design major), he was working as a carpenter. During this time, he became aware of the joy of craftsmanship, and when his friend introduced him to the world of pottery, he loved it so much that 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 an independent potter when he opened his own studio in the early 90s.  

The rest was history.  He won many prestigious craft awards in Japan, and soon 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. I say it's probably because he already had a great artistic sense to begin with, but he says 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.  I absolutely love this mentality...  

So 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 items that I brought home with me.  Yes I will make sure that they are available for you, too.  

sneak peak

sneak peak


For the mean time, check out his masterful techniques of pottery making: 

Akio Nukaga doing a wheel throwing demo.

Yup - he's the man.