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Makoto Hatori by Shane Enright

Studio Pottery, Number 4, pp. 23-26 (Aug./Sept.1993) Studio Pottery is a bi-monthly magazine, intended as a useful and readable companion for all those interested in pottery and ceramic in the U.K. - 15 Magdalen Road, Exeter

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Makoto Hatori
Shane Enright
Makoto Hatori is a very Japanese potter. Whether traditional or modern in style, his work is
rooted in Japan's ancient Bizen tradition of pottery making. At first sight his work may appear
unfamiliar to those for whom mention of the Japanese ceramic heritage conjures up images of
the work of Leach, or Hamada. In the first half of the century, through Leach, Hamada and their
associates, the ancient ceramic traditions of Korea, China and especially Japan came to
dominate the aesthetic of British potters. In the process, the folk craft traditions of both Japan
and England were simultaneously revived and renewed, laying the ground for much of the
current studio pottery movement and establishing connections between Japanese and British
Ceramics.
The picture of Japanese ceramics shown by this revival, though, is incomplete. The Leach and
Hamada aesthetic, based on a search for harmony, balance and simplicity, is reflected in
symmetrical forms, perfect glazes, careful brushwork and a palette of colors drawn from nature.
The resulting pots convey a strong sense of simple rustic beauty.
But there were other cultural values at large in Japan during its ceramic heyday in the 15th and
16th centuries, values that were to encourage a much wilder route in pottery making. Japanese
pottery production was highly fragmented at the time, with each valley or kiln site having its
distinctive techniques and using local clays, glazes, and firing techniques. The result was the
emergence of distinct regional styles.
The newly rich merchant class, enthralled by the rituals of the tea ceremony, and looking forward
to a mythical golden age of natural harmony, was concerned about authenticity in ceramics. They
wanted their pots to reflect local folk traditions, and their taste encouraged an enhancement,
sometimes exaggeration, of the various distinct styles. Influenced by Buddhism, they sought
organic, unrestrained pots in which the natural elements that had gone into their making-clay,
fire, ash-would be evident in the finished vessel, and in which the naive hand of the maker would
be revealed in rough and unrefined forms.
The most sought-after ceramics were Bizen, the tradition that Hatori has made his own. Bizen
pots are unglazed before firing, acquiring an uneven green or brown glazed surface from flying
ash during the long firing process, and further marked, in many cases, by red scorch marks
caused by straw packed round the vessels. While the potter can innocence the likely surface
qualities of the work by deciding where to place pots in the kiln, and by controlling the firing,
there is always an element of chance in the result. Natural haphazard qualities are reinforced by
the forms of Bizen vessels. Bizen was highly regarded for its water jars and flower vases. These
are typically very roughly thrown, with turning marks prominent, and with wobbly mouths and
rims, sags and indentations that emphasize their authentic folk quality.
Hatori has taken these qualities fully on board. His traditional pots, for which he is famous in
Japan, range from small evenly thrown cups to large water jars, tea bowls and vases, with evident
turning marks, undulating rims or roughly-hewn facets. All these vessels show the coloring that
can only be achieved after slow firing in a climbing kiln. In Hatori's hands the results are truly
spectacular: the reddish-purple clay streaked with lines of orange-brown or mashes of red,
purple-grey or green from the firing. Each vessel is genuinely unique, raw and immediate. Some
are more evenly thrown than others, in some the surface color is more uniform, but all depart
from any romantic notion of simplicity. These pots have been created rather than made, the
artist's handling of the clay and kiln contributing to, rather than controlling, the finished product.
Like their sculptural counterparts, they actively incorporate chance into the process of making.
Indeed they depend on accident to an extent that Leach and Hamada never countenanced.
In his sculptural pieces Hatori makes the random, the accidental element, central. Many of his
sculptures are made out of recognizably Bizen vessels, such as sake bottles or cups, but these
have been fused together, in small groups or larger heaps, just as pots in a kiln which had
accidentally fallen on each other would be welded together by a thick coating of ash glaze. In
some cases the image these bring to mind is precisely of a 'kiln happening' , a chaotic jumble of
elements, each one individually recognizable and functional, but the whole being abstract and
sculptural. The shift of perspective from the familiar detail to the abstract whole can be quite
uncanny, giving the pieces tension and excitement.
Asked whether he finds any tension between his traditional work and the more sculptural pieces,
Hatori comments:
All my elements are traditional. I am deeply influenced by Bizen, but I want to make
something new out of these traditions. There is no distinction between the traditional
forms and the more modern work. All of these are connected, my work is developed in
parallel, simultaneously.
What made this exhibition rewarding was seeing those connections; the traditional translating
into a modern and abstract idiom in a way that built bridges between old new. The result was a
renewal and rediscovery of Bizen, a truly beautiful tradition in ceramics.
NOES:
Two pieces by Hatori were purchased by Far Eastern Dept of the Victoria & Albert Museum as
part of its program in acquiring contemporary Japanese crafts. One is a traditional Bizen water
jar, the other a sculpture made from assembled sake bottles. Commenting on these, Rupert
Faulker, Deputy Curator of the Far Eastern Collection, said: " Hatori's work is good for our
collection, not only because we have not had any contemporary work from Bizen until now, but
because of his ability to extend from the tradition. He is trying to do something different and
interesting within Bizen".
Studio Pottery, Number 4, pp. 23-26 (Aug./Sept.1993) Studio Pottery is a bi-monthly magazine, intended as a useful
and readable companion for all those interested in pottery and ceramic in the U.K. - 15 Magadalen road, Exeter
Makoto Hatori's exhibition is at Leigh Gallery, 17 Leigh Street, London WC1 June 15-27, 1993.

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Makoto Hatori by Shane Enright

  • 1. http://www2r.biglobe.ne.jp/~makoto-h/ Makoto Hatori Shane Enright Makoto Hatori is a very Japanese potter. Whether traditional or modern in style, his work is rooted in Japan's ancient Bizen tradition of pottery making. At first sight his work may appear unfamiliar to those for whom mention of the Japanese ceramic heritage conjures up images of the work of Leach, or Hamada. In the first half of the century, through Leach, Hamada and their associates, the ancient ceramic traditions of Korea, China and especially Japan came to dominate the aesthetic of British potters. In the process, the folk craft traditions of both Japan and England were simultaneously revived and renewed, laying the ground for much of the current studio pottery movement and establishing connections between Japanese and British Ceramics. The picture of Japanese ceramics shown by this revival, though, is incomplete. The Leach and Hamada aesthetic, based on a search for harmony, balance and simplicity, is reflected in symmetrical forms, perfect glazes, careful brushwork and a palette of colors drawn from nature. The resulting pots convey a strong sense of simple rustic beauty. But there were other cultural values at large in Japan during its ceramic heyday in the 15th and 16th centuries, values that were to encourage a much wilder route in pottery making. Japanese pottery production was highly fragmented at the time, with each valley or kiln site having its distinctive techniques and using local clays, glazes, and firing techniques. The result was the emergence of distinct regional styles. The newly rich merchant class, enthralled by the rituals of the tea ceremony, and looking forward to a mythical golden age of natural harmony, was concerned about authenticity in ceramics. They wanted their pots to reflect local folk traditions, and their taste encouraged an enhancement, sometimes exaggeration, of the various distinct styles. Influenced by Buddhism, they sought organic, unrestrained pots in which the natural elements that had gone into their making-clay, fire, ash-would be evident in the finished vessel, and in which the naive hand of the maker would be revealed in rough and unrefined forms. The most sought-after ceramics were Bizen, the tradition that Hatori has made his own. Bizen pots are unglazed before firing, acquiring an uneven green or brown glazed surface from flying ash during the long firing process, and further marked, in many cases, by red scorch marks
  • 2. caused by straw packed round the vessels. While the potter can innocence the likely surface qualities of the work by deciding where to place pots in the kiln, and by controlling the firing, there is always an element of chance in the result. Natural haphazard qualities are reinforced by the forms of Bizen vessels. Bizen was highly regarded for its water jars and flower vases. These are typically very roughly thrown, with turning marks prominent, and with wobbly mouths and rims, sags and indentations that emphasize their authentic folk quality. Hatori has taken these qualities fully on board. His traditional pots, for which he is famous in Japan, range from small evenly thrown cups to large water jars, tea bowls and vases, with evident turning marks, undulating rims or roughly-hewn facets. All these vessels show the coloring that can only be achieved after slow firing in a climbing kiln. In Hatori's hands the results are truly spectacular: the reddish-purple clay streaked with lines of orange-brown or mashes of red, purple-grey or green from the firing. Each vessel is genuinely unique, raw and immediate. Some are more evenly thrown than others, in some the surface color is more uniform, but all depart from any romantic notion of simplicity. These pots have been created rather than made, the artist's handling of the clay and kiln contributing to, rather than controlling, the finished product. Like their sculptural counterparts, they actively incorporate chance into the process of making. Indeed they depend on accident to an extent that Leach and Hamada never countenanced. In his sculptural pieces Hatori makes the random, the accidental element, central. Many of his sculptures are made out of recognizably Bizen vessels, such as sake bottles or cups, but these have been fused together, in small groups or larger heaps, just as pots in a kiln which had accidentally fallen on each other would be welded together by a thick coating of ash glaze. In some cases the image these bring to mind is precisely of a 'kiln happening' , a chaotic jumble of elements, each one individually recognizable and functional, but the whole being abstract and sculptural. The shift of perspective from the familiar detail to the abstract whole can be quite uncanny, giving the pieces tension and excitement. Asked whether he finds any tension between his traditional work and the more sculptural pieces, Hatori comments: All my elements are traditional. I am deeply influenced by Bizen, but I want to make something new out of these traditions. There is no distinction between the traditional forms and the more modern work. All of these are connected, my work is developed in parallel, simultaneously.
  • 3. What made this exhibition rewarding was seeing those connections; the traditional translating into a modern and abstract idiom in a way that built bridges between old new. The result was a renewal and rediscovery of Bizen, a truly beautiful tradition in ceramics. NOES: Two pieces by Hatori were purchased by Far Eastern Dept of the Victoria & Albert Museum as part of its program in acquiring contemporary Japanese crafts. One is a traditional Bizen water jar, the other a sculpture made from assembled sake bottles. Commenting on these, Rupert Faulker, Deputy Curator of the Far Eastern Collection, said: " Hatori's work is good for our collection, not only because we have not had any contemporary work from Bizen until now, but because of his ability to extend from the tradition. He is trying to do something different and interesting within Bizen". Studio Pottery, Number 4, pp. 23-26 (Aug./Sept.1993) Studio Pottery is a bi-monthly magazine, intended as a useful and readable companion for all those interested in pottery and ceramic in the U.K. - 15 Magadalen road, Exeter Makoto Hatori's exhibition is at Leigh Gallery, 17 Leigh Street, London WC1 June 15-27, 1993.