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Shoji Hamada

Japanese/American
(1894–1978)

Plate
circa 1950

Stoneware
3.75 x 15.5 x 15.5 in.
Gift of Laura Andreson
1984.127

Few figures have sustained an artistic influence over American ceramics as long as the Japanese potter Shōji Hamada. A proponent of the mingei movement—a Japanese craft philosophy that placed value on the beauty found in 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 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 object with minimal surface decoration. The light-brown glaze forms curves reminiscent of Japanese kanji script. For Hamada, the simplicity of pottery extended to the lifestyle of potters—they should produce only what they need, while living 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 developed a close friendship. Hamada traveled to England with Leach, spending three formative years working with him 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 homes.

Matthew Limb


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