Monday, September 26, 2011


“Do not make a new form and design from an old pattern, I was always told. Turquoise is one of the oldest colors used in ceramics. It was produced by applying hashokuzai to copper, and copper oxide can still be seen in this type of pottery in the ME (Middle Eastern) countries. We marvel at the new molding and design techniques we have created in the modern age, but often it turns out that similar techniques already existed in the past. Truly original creation is so hard in this age, which is dominated by imitation. This thought is uppermost in my mind as I try to create.”

The above quote is by Mino potter, Kato Kenji (1933-2008) who while working in the tradition of TORUKO-AO (Turkish Blue) clearly understood the necessity to find his own voice and vocabulary in an idiom that would be easy to imitate what had come before. Kato was well trained during his apprenticeship with two Ningen Kokuho; Tomimoto Kenkichi and Kondo Yuzo; his broad abilities are a reflection of both of his masters. Kato worked within the traditional Mino field producing wonderful Shino wares as well as iron rich glazes, iro-e overglaze enameled works and both transparent and opaque Persian blue glazes. By looking at his body of Toroku-ao work, you can see that he kept his distance from simply copying what had gone before. He constantly strove to add something to an age old tradition, making this work his own.

This paddled henko-tsubo is very typical of Kato Kenji’s opaque Toruko-ao works. It stands about 10” tall and has wonderful brushed decoration under his lush and vellum textured glaze. Despite having the appearance of a traditional raqqa style pot, the form and decoration speak of a pot born out of a foreign ideal but distinctly Japanese in execution. Together with Ningen Kokuho, Kato Takuo, Kato Kenji helped extend the Silk Road all the way to the doorstep of Gifu Prefecture out of the past and into the present day.

1 comment:

  1. I love this pot, the surface is so soft looking and of course I happen to like turquoise.