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Interview about beauty of ceramics

Shinichi Honma

What is it about Momoyama ceramics that makes them beautiful?

For me the beauty of ceramics lies in their mare existence rather than in their appearance. After the Momoyama period, ceramics began to be produced in great numbers in the Nobori-kiln. The designs become too ornate and a lot of their original characteristic beauty was lost. Ornate pieces can be charming, but too much is cliched and dull, in my opinion.

Is this philosophy reflected in the methods you use to create your works?

I don't aim at creating sharp lines in my work. I just want to create pieces which have meaning in themselves. I often slow down the speed of my potter's wheel and let the process take as much time and energy as the piece requires.

Your pieces convey an atmosphere of elegance at the same time as dynamism. Don't you have the urge to make sensational pieces? Sometimes flamboyant pieces are highly praised as works of originality.

I don't make and I don't want to make sensational pieces. I am not interested in such ceramics. Flamboyant methods like drawing unnecessary pictures or using inlay are not my style. I believe that pieces that reflect too much of the artist lose their attractiveness. For example, Hakuji (white-ceramics) of the Lee dynasty are very smooth and simple, but they have sensual charm. The simplest things are the most difficult to create.

You always say that you believe that pottery should be functional in everyday life.

I think that there is no point in making pieces that aren't at their most beautiful when they are used. Actually, I like to cook, and I often consider what kind of piece would go well with the food I cook. I intend to continue my work based on this idea and create pieces that have a real place and can bear the test of time.

How do you like to fire your pieces?

Ultimately, the kiln is an essential part of completing the process of creating a new piece. The whole process, from beginning to the end of creating piece, contributes to the beauty of piece, which can be beyond words. One of the things I'm interested in is expressing softness in various ways. For example, I prefer soft red for color. I choose soil that creates natural reds rather than using artificial reds.

Do you have any ideas for your next phase of work?

I am not the type of person who tends to take on a challenge when I work. I like to follow the new forms I discover as my work develops over time. When I look back over my work and see how I've developed, I'm usually quite pleased with it. For example, when I went to the Mitsui Memorial Museum in autumn, I was attracted to the Raku-chawan tea cups (which have a lead glaze, and are fired at low temperatures.) Some of the works that will be exhibited at the Sendai Mediatheque are inspired by them, and I have adapted the designs to suit my ideas and style. Those pieces are quite different from my previous work, but as I said before, I like to follow what naturally moves my heart and inspires me.

phot:Shinichi Honma

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