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 Tanoue Shinya - Japanese ceramic artist, Keiko Gallery

Interview with Tanoue Shinya - 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 : What was the starting point in your investigation with ceramics? Do you remember your early works?

Tanoue Shinya: When I was a student of Theology at the Doshisha University, I also belonged to the ceramic club. I was just absorbed to make something with clay in the club’s room. I worked for some textile company for two years after the graduation, and I entered Kyoto Saga Art College because I wanted to learn more throwing techniques. I remember the pieces I made in the college very well. The pieces I’ve made in my freshman year are the origins of my current series.

Tanoue Shinya Japanese Ceramics - Contemporary Ceramics Magazine

KARA-10: Fu- a, 2010, Glazed clay, 7” x 26” x 4 1/2” (h) - View his works

Your works may be simple, but the details, the lines and curves of your works are very sinuous. Tell us about how do you construct your pieces.

After creating the vessel or sculpture’s shape with coil techniques, the slip is applied on the surface. And then I groove the surface with needles one by one and at the end I rub iron into those grooves.

The important theme of my pieces is the shell - egg shells, shells of fruits or seashells, because they are deeply related to the normal circles of life. The cobalt blue in the pieces represent the ocean, which is the origin of life on Earth.  The wombs are consideres to be the shell of human beings, so if I could express in my pieces the memories of leaving the wombs (leaving forever the protective and comfortable feeling), it would be wonderful.

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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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