Interview with Fujita Toshiaki - Japanese lacquer artist, Keiko Gallery

Interview with Fujita Toshiaki - Japanese lacquer artist represented by Keiko Gallery, October 2011

The special feature in partnership with Keiko Gallery includes interviews with 10 Japanese artists represented by Keiko, and many images with their works.

→ This interview is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One, Winter 2011-2012.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: Not many people know that lacquer is used to make art pieces. Can you tell us more about this material and how do you use it?

Fujita Toshiaki: The Urushi tree (Rhus Vernicifera) is a member of the sumac family of trees, found in various parts of Asia. The trees produce the sap which has been used as the coating and the adhesive material in Japan more than 9000 years. A poisonous substance when in liquid form (causing skin irritation), it becomes non-toxic on hardening and is waterproof and acid-proof. There are some examples that Native American use the sap of sumac, poison ivy or oak with the same purposes.

Fujita Toshiaki Japanese Lacquer art - Ceramics NowThe season for harvesting sap is from June to October, and an Urushi tree must be between 8 to 13 years old before it is mature enough to produce only one cup of sap. The sap, an opaque light brown color, oozes from the slashes on the trunk, and it’s carefully scraped with a special tool; after this procces the sap is called Arami-Urushi. The Sap is stirred and carefully heated to equalize its components and remove excess fluid. Those Urushi is called Sugurome-Urushi or Kijiro-Urushi and used as the coating material for the upper layers.

The drying system of Urushi is very different from other painting materials. Drying Urushi means to be harden. The laccase enzyme reacts in Urusiol which is hardening constituent and initiates a chemical reaction: oxidation polymerization. To increase the activity of the chemical reaction, the ideal temperature is 77F and the moisture set to 80%. That means if the air is too dry, the lacquer never gets dry.

I focused on this characteristic drying system on Urushi and pursued to create the sculptures called layered forms. I daringly remove other elements in Urushi crafts, because they might interrupt my essential concept for my layered form series. However to understand what is lacquer or lacquer art, I should not deal with only unusual dying systems of Urushi, but also should focus on the traditional techniques, because sometimes we can find the answer in the techniques which were sophisticated and established by our forefathers. For the reason, I worked hard to acquire techniques like woodwork, dry-lacquer, colorings, coatings and decorations.

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Interview with Kawabata Kentaro - Japanese ceramic artist, Keiko Gallery

Interview with Kawabata Kentaro - Japanese ceramic artist represented by Keiko Gallery, October 2011

The special feature in partnership with Keiko Gallery includes interviews with 10 Japanese artists represented by Keiko, and many images with their works.

→ This interview is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One, Winter 2011-2012.

Ceramics Now Magazine
: You were among the first contemporary Japanese artists to combine ceramics and glass when constructing a new work. How did you start to connect these materials?

Kawabata Kentaro: I wanted to to extract the ingredients from the glaze and embed them into the clay. For example, I tried to use fragments of smashed glass bottles, feldspar, silica stone and beachsand in my white porcelain works, and I did that by mixing these fragments with the glaze. I also wanted to observe the chemical reactions between those materials and the clear glaze after the firing. Throughout these experiences, I was fascinated about the harmony of the different kinds of translucency between glass and white porcelain. I also love touching the unfired clay with bits of glass inserted into it, and I want to get the similar feeling after the firing. I want to constantly develop my work, so I am still looking for new glazes and new kinds of glass as well as interesting materials which go well with my style of work.

Kawabata Kentaro Japanese Ceramics - Contemporary Ceramics Magazine

Batista, 2011, Glazed clay, glass, silver, 26” x 18” x 12 1/2”. Photo by Taku Saiki - View his works


What is your present project and how do you make the pieces? Tell us more about the process.

Now I am trying to construct a few sculptures using slip casting. After making several different kinds of plaster casts, I connect them. I use my original technique in my newest works, which consists in applying small clay balls and sand on the surface.

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Interview with Murata Yoshihiko - Japanese lacquer artist, Keiko Gallery

Interview with Murata Yoshihiko - Japanese lacquer artist represented by Keiko Gallery, October 2011

The special feature in partnership with Keiko Gallery includes interviews with 10 Japanese artists represented by Keiko, and many images with their works.

→ The interviews will be published in the first printed issue of Ceramics Now Magazine. Pre-order Issue nr. 1 - Winter 2011-2012 or subscribe for one year.

Ceramics Now Magazine : You are a very young and talented artist. What was your first experience with art and with lacquer?

Murata Yoshihiko: I wasn’t exposed to the arts that much and didn’t know about Japanese lacquer work very well until I entered the art collage. I was interested in design and woodwork working and wanted to make the furniture for our daily life when I was a teenager. When I was a sophomore student, I choose the Urushi department for my major, but it was something uncomfortable for me. At first, I made many chaotic pieces, however those pieces are supposed to be an origin of my work today.

Murata Yoshihiko Japanese Lacquer art on Ceramics Now Magazine

Silhouette-02, 2010, Maple wood, lacquer, 8” x 2 3/4” x 1 1/2” - View his works

Your works have an extraordinary sense of space and light, their shadows contrasting with the colors and the surroundings. How do you make these fantastic lines of dark? It has to do with the slim silhouettes of your works.

I simulate the three dimensional shapes in my mind, for example, how lines will be flowing or how they are placed on the pedestals or attached on the walls. I believe that only lines which look beautiful from any angles can make the lithe and sharp silhouette.

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Interview with Niisato Akio - Japanese ceramic artist, Keiko Gallery

Interview with Niisato Akio - Japanese ceramic artist represented by Keiko Gallery, October 2011

The special feature in partnership with Keiko Gallery includes interviews with 10 Japanese artists represented by Keiko, and many images with their works.

→ The interviews will be published in the first printed issue of Ceramics Now Magazine. Pre-order Issue nr. 1 - Winter 2011-2012 or subscribe for one year.

Ceramics Now Magazine : You are about to start working as artist in residence at the Harvard Ceramic Studio. What do you hope you’ll learn from this experience?

Niisato Akio: I am very interested in the different perspectives on craft art, especially Ceramics between US and Japan. I feel that the vessels are more appreciated in Japan rather than US, as well as the ceramic art itself. I would like to know why and I will research on these issues during my stay at Harvard. I am looking forward to seeing new people who will give me a lots of inspiration.

Niisato Akio Japanese Ceramics

Luminous Vessel, 2008, Glazed porcelain, 5” x 5” x 10” - View his works

Ceramics Now Magazine: The lightness and pureness of your works makes them unique. Tell us more about how do you make them.

Niisato Akio: White is a simple color, but it can express the subtle nuance between sensibility/ pureness and lights/ shadows.

After I throw the pieces, they are razed as thin as possible, and then I drill the holes with an electric drill, one by one.

After the firing, I sand the surfaces and the glaze is applied manually into the holes. Another glaze is applied all over the surfaces with a compressor and then the pieces go into the kiln at 2246(F). It is not so easy to make the smooth surface with a single firing, because the holes absorb the glaze very easily, so they need to be fired two or three times to get a nice result.

Niisato Akio Japanese Ceramics - Ceramics Now Magazine

Luminous Form, 2008, Glazed porcelain, 12” x 8 1/2” - View his works

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Interview with Hayashi Shigeki - Japanese ceramic artist, Keiko Gallery

Interview with Hayashi Shigeki - Japanese ceramic artist represented by Keiko Gallery, October 2011

The special feature in partnership with Keiko Gallery includes interviews with 10 Japanese artists represented by Keiko, and many images with their works.

→ The interviews will be published in the first printed issue of Ceramics Now Magazine. Pre-order Issue nr. 1 - Winter 2011-2012 or subscribe for one year.

Ceramics Now Magazine : Constructing your figurative pieces with such delicacy takes a lot of time. Can you tell us more about the process? What materials do you use?

Hayashi Shigeki Japanese Ceramics - Ceramics Now MagazineHayashi Shigeki: I make the prototypes with regular clay and make plaster casts for them. Then I pour the plaster, modify those plaster masters very carefully and create second plaster casts. Then I pour the slip into them and throw the remaining slip away. After taking the pieces out from the cast, I work on some final details and then put them into the kiln for the biscuit firing. I sand the biscuit surfaces and then second fire them at 2246 degrees (F). Additional decorations with gold or silver are added and then fired again at 1472(F). All the parts are assembled with epoxide-based adhesive and bolts. The latest work consists in forty parts. I am using thirty four different kinds of casts which are from two to seven split molds. Since I don’t have any assistancy, all the processes are done by myself. For my latest work, it took me nine months to make the casting process and one month for the firing and assembling process.

Hayashi Shigeki Japanese Ceramics

00, 2011 (white bike), Glazed porcelain, 32” wide - View his works

Your works look like tiny sophisticated robots. What do they represent? What message are you trying to send to the viewers?

They are characters in my imaginary science fiction world. Each audience may receive different kind of messages from my work. Someone will think positive about the future, bot others will feel my warning messages.

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Interview with Takeuchi Kouzo - Japanese ceramic artist, Keiko Gallery

Interview with Takeuchi Kouzo - Japanese ceramic artist represented by Keiko Gallery, October 2011

The special feature in partnership with Keiko Gallery includes interviews with 10 Japanese artists represented by Keiko, and many images with their works.

→ The interviews will be published in the first printed issue of Ceramics Now Magazine. Pre-order Issue nr. 1 - Winter 2011-2012 or subscribe for one year.

Ceramics Now Magazine : In your career as a ceramic artist, you took the challenge of using white porcelain in constructing complex geometrical systems. Tell us more about the motifs of your work.

I want to make people feel the passage of time over my pieces. When people see the remains of a culture or decayed buildings, they evoke special emotions. I want to express not only the ruins themselves, but also the atmosphere surrounding them and their strong presence. In other words, I want the audience to feel exactly how I felt when I looked at the destroyed buildings and ruins.

Takeuchi Kouzo Contemporary Japanese Ceramics

Modern Remains D II, 2006, Glazed porcelain, 21” x 22” x 9” - View his works

In what techniques do you usually work and what materials do you use?

The pieces are made out of porcelain clay. I make many hollow square tubes with slip casting and compose them before they get dry. After the biscuit firing, I apply the glaze and put them into the kiln at 2264 (F). I use the electric kiln for my white pieces.


Time is something you’ve embraced when constructing (or deconstructing) your works. What’s your works’ relation with time?

The geometric dense squares represent man-made buildings and I considered that the pieces might be able to embrace time if I break them, because the decayed geometric construction might evoke us about our far future. Since the color of white shows the lights and shadows clearly and dramatically, it maximizes the pathos and emotion of the modern ruins.

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Interview with Takeda Asayo - Japanese textile artist, Keiko Gallery

Interview with Takeda Asayo - Japanese textile artist represented by Keiko Gallery, October 2011

The special feature in partnership with Keiko Gallery includes interviews with 10 Japanese artists represented by Keiko, and many images with their works.

→ The interviews will be published in the first printed issue of Ceramics Now Magazine. Pre-order Issue nr. 1 - Winter 2011-2012 or subscribe for one year.

Ceramics Now Magazine : You are one of the most appreciated textile artists in Japan, with many awards for your purses. When did you start working with textiles?

Takeda Asayo: I started making purses in 1970 and had my first solo exhibition in a gallery in 1983.

Do you remember how much you asked for the first bag you created to be sold?

It was about JPY 12000 (=$150). That purchase made me confident and gave me the power to go forward.

Takeda Asayo Japanese Textile artist - Ceramics Now

Sculpturesque Purse, 2009, Cotton, leather - View her works

More than 30 years ago, you established your own independent studio for the production of fabric sculpture and bags. What can you tell us about the studio, how it evolved in time?

I would like to create the usable sculpture rather than just looking. I believe that this new concept appeals to many people, so I have been able to continue my style until now.


Your works have an amazing and innovative design which distinguish itself. You carefully chose the fabric material, and you try to make your works to be comfortable and complimentary to the human body. Doing all that, you find a balance between functionality and design. How?

Our body of work consists in many curved lines, so I always consider that the shape and lines of my purses can harmonize with our body line. I prefer to improvise rather than using the fixed patterns. That makes my purses comfortable to wear.

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