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Katsuso Ichino: Taking a Step from Tradition to Contemporary Art

“I want to make use of the simple and natural clay that is unique to Tanba-yaki.” Katsuiso Ichino Mr. Katsuso Ichino is the seventh generation of the Ichino family who has been making Tanba-yaki, one of the “Six Old Kilns of Japan” in Hyogo Prefecture. The pottery originated at the end of the Heian period (794-1185), about 850 years ago. In 1926, Japanese philosopher Muneyoshi Yanagi and his friends started the Japanese folk art movement known as “Mingei”. The idea was for Muneyoshi Yanagi to introduce to the world everyday Japanese art and crafts such as pottery, textiles, and lacquerware made by unknown artisans, which had been largely ignored by art history. Yanagi collected 300 pieces of Tanba ware and wrote a book about its beauty. Thanks to the efforts of Muneyoshi Yanagi, the history of Tanba-yaki as tableware was revived 90 years ago. Ichino Katsuiso’s efforts to present a new style of pottery that incorporates the techniques of Tanba-yaki as modern art will continue Muneyoshi Yanagi’s “Mingei” movement. History of Tanba-yaki – A Family of Tanba-yaki Artisans Making Art with Clay Expression through Tanba-yaki From Simple Tableware to Contemporary Art Where to buy Ichino Katsuiso’s works History – A family of Tanba-yaki craftsmen Carbonized “Mizusashi” by Ichino Katsuiso What is the long history of Tanba-yaki? The history of Tanba-yaki dates back to about 850 years ago, and its origins can be traced back to the late Heian period (794-1185). The kilns were built in the mountains of the valleys and practical tableware was made. It has been handed down in the family, always making the pottery that the times demanded, while continuing to challenge new things. I feel this precious history. I strive to make pottery that can only be made in this era, that can only be made by me, and that is unique to me. What did you do before you started training in ceramics in your twenties? I was studying Western painting with a teacher. I also studied sculpture for a year. The university I attended was not an art school, but Kwansei Gakuin University, where I majored in economics. You were born into a family of traditional Tanba pottery artisans and followed in your ancestors’ footsteps to become a Tanba pottery artist, why did you choose this path? When I was a child, pottery was something that was always around me and I wasn’t really interested in it. However, when I was in my twenties, I studied under an artist in Tokyo who was creating works using ceramics. Inspired by that, I decided to try making contemporary pottery in the kilns of my hometown, Tanba. I have continued to create since then. Creating works using clay What are the characteristics of Tanba-yaki? It is characterized by simple clay with a rustic texture. Tamba-yaki had few restrictions and changed its shape freely with the passage of time. Historical Tanba-yaki reflects the needs of the era in which it was made. The characteristic of Tanba-yaki is that it is pottery that reflects the trends of the times. Carbonated octagonal “Mizunashi” (water container for tea ceremony) by Ichino Katsuiso. Why did Tanba-yaki flourish in the production of pottery? How is the clay of Tanba-yaki different from other clays? I think it is because there was an abundance of clay suitable for pottery in this area. It is a mountainous soil with high iron content. What kind of clay do you always use? The clay I use for my work can be used to finish cups and bowls, and the surface is very smooth and pleasant to the touch. Expression through Tanba-yaki Please tell us what you want to express through Tanba-yaki and what you can express only through Tanba-yaki. I would like to make pottery that has a strong presence and is particular about its shape. I would like to make use of the simple and natural clay that is unique to Tanba-yaki. Originally, Tanba was characterized by its massive, strong, and sturdy pottery. I paint the Tamba clay with white clay (clay with high iron content will turn reddish brown if fired as is). What has kept us going for many years is our commitment to charcoal baking, a method that uses charcoal. It is rustic and light. It’s hard to describe in a few words, but I aim to make Tanba-yaki pottery that is as good as the light sound of jazz. When you introduce Tanba-yaki to overseas art lovers, what do you focus on more than when you introduce it to domestic fans? I would like to stick to the Japanese style of Tamba-yaki, which is natural and simple clay. Rather than practicality, I want to emphasize the presence of Tanba-yaki itself and make it stand out. In the case of tableware and vases, I would like to appeal the presence of pottery by showing tableware with food on it and vases with flowers in them. However, in the case of pottery that emphasizes form (which of course includes vases and tea utensils), I think the artist’s intentions and ideas are more important. I think it is necessary to have a timeless power that can withstand the changes of the times. This is my first foray into overseas markets. I would like to focus on making this kind of pottery in the future. How do you want people to feel when they buy your Tanba-yaki? I would like them to feel the warmth of the clay and to want to keep it by their side forever. Image of clay by Katsuiso Ichino From simple tableware to contemporary art Until now, Tanba-yaki has been considered a precious traditional craft in Japan. How will the history of pottery change with the existence of contemporary art? And what will be the new challenge? Pottery that is not used for practical purposes but for decorating houses overseas is creating new demands. I also think that the way we treat the pieces will change, and the techniques and designs will become more sophisticated. I think there will be more Tanba works in the galleries in Tanba, and I believe that different customers will come to the galleries. Have you been influenced by other artists or do you have your own motto? I am influenced by Ms. Hiromi Itabashi, whom I studied under in Tokyo. In addition to studying pottery, I also visit art exhibitions to get inspiration. I aim to make pottery that is true to my heart. I often analyze my finished work to get ideas. I look for ways to improve and imagine my next piece. Do you have any plans for the future? I would like to promote Tanba-yaki overseas. It would be nice to have the opportunity to present my works at overseas exhibitions. Where can I purchase Mr. Katsuso Ichino’s works? TRiCERA exhibits many of Ichino Katsuiso’s unique works. If you are interested in the works of other young Japanese artists, please visit our Contemporary Art page.

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