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Shoji Hamada


circa 1950

3.75 x 15.5 x 15.5 in.
Gift of Laura Andreson

Few figures have sustained the artistic influence over American ceramics as the Japanese potter Shōji Hamada. A proponent of the mingei movement—a Japanese craft philosophy that placed value on the beauty found in ordinary utilitarian objects, relied upon local materials, and emphasized the creativity of the individual maker—Hamada and his close friend, the British potter Bernard Leach, were instrumental in bringing these ideas to the United States. Mingei and the Eastern philosophy of Zen Buddhism resonated deeply with American potters seeking to raise ceramics to the level of fine art and explore personal expression in their work. Plate is a simple, ordinary object with minimal surface decoration. The light brown glaze forming curves reminiscent of Japanese kanji. For Hamada, the simplicity of pottery extended to the lifestyle of the potter—a person should produce what they need and live simply and in harmony with the natural environment.

Shōji Hamada was born in Kawasaki, Japan and studied ceramics at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. After seeing an exhibition of Bernard Leach’s work in Tokyo, Hamada sought him out and the two built a close friendship. Hamada traveled to England with Leach, spending three formative years working with Leach at his pottery in St. Ives. Throughout their careers, Leach and Hamada revived traditional pottery production and were instrumental in spreading ideas of simplicity, beauty, and harmony in ceramics far beyond their home.

Matthew Limb

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