The Ceramic History of Westerwald, Germany


The Origins - The Westerwald Clay Region


The vast and extensive clay quarries in the Westerwald region represent the largest connected deposits in Europe. Only a few other regions in the world are known to have clay sources of comparable size and quality. The Westerwald clay is distinguished by its exceptional ductility, virtually impurity-free composition, and excellent sintering properties. These clays are perfectly suited for stoneware production–a high-fired, waterproof, acid-resistant, impermeable clay.

The rich clay resources, together with abundant timber in the region, earned Westerwald the moniker "Pot Bakers’ Land" or Kannenbäckerland. The proximity of major long-distance trade routes such as the Salt Way and the Rhine, key European arteries, was pivotal in transforming Westerwald and its stoneware into an international success story.


Stoneware from Inception to the Renaissance


Kilns capable of reaching temperatures up to 1200 °C were documented in the Rhineland as early as the 13th century. The oldest documented evidence of pottery kilns in Höhr dates back to the year 1402. 

Extremely poor working conditions, warfare, and penury triggered migration movements across Europe, including the Westerwald region. Around 1600 skilled pottery masters from the Rhineland, Raeren in Belgium, and Lorraine began migrating to the so-called Pot Bakers’ Land (Kannenbäckerland). They infused fresh vitality into local craftsmanship, bringing new forms, decorative motifs, and new glazing and firing techniques. As a result, the pottery trade in the region experienced a major boost in the following centuries.

During this period, the distinctive pottery of the Pot Bakers’ Land developed: a grey, salt-glazed stoneware vessel adorned with cobalt blue painted decorations. The vessel shapes often show a carinated or angular shape achieved by the emphasized articulation of the different body parts through fluting or ridges. Cobalt blue painting was complemented by additional decorative techniques such as stamping and applications.

These vessels were embellished with depictions of prince-electors, bishops, biblical narrative cycles, and very mundane scenes featuring barn dances or mercenaries. Apart from everyday household ware produced for local sale, the potters also worked on commissions that were traded and sold internationally. Westerwald stoneware had become a product on the global market!


The Baroque Period


In Germany, the Baroque period, a new Italian style that developed after the deprivations of the Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 1648), had a significant impact on pottery. Westerwald experienced an economic upturn, leading to the establishment of new potteries everywhere. In 1771, the guild in the Pot Bakers’ Land (Kannenbäckerland) reached its zenith with six hundred master craftsmen in twenty-three villages. Aside from these, there were many so-called Schnatzer–individuals who, for various reasons– could not or should not be named master. The increasing number of competing potters led to a decline in quality, subsequently causing prices to fall. Faced with this situation, regional authorities were forced to take regulatory measures.

In addition to everyday pottery, craftsmen in the region specialized in creating drinking vessels, figurines, and ornamental pieces. Appliqué as adornment became popular—lozenges, medallions, rosettes, or blossoms were intricately and elaborately crafted and placed. Furthermore, new patterns were introduced, such as hatched lines or impressions made using a wooden stick and stamped decoration.

The products originating from the Kannenbäckerland were renowned for their high quality supra-regionally. Affluent clientele, including the aristocracy, entrusted and commissioned the potters with their specific wishes and needs. This is evident in the personal crests or emblems, such as "GR" for George Rex (King George of England).


Historicism:

18th to 19th Century


From the 18th century onwards, traditional stoneware products faced stiff competition from European porcelain and modern stoneware, gradually losing favor among solvent customers. Out of necessity, the potters focused on producing greyish-blue everyday household tableware up to the middle of the 19th century. 

A turning point occurred in 1864 with the recruitment of Bohemian modeler Reinhold Hanke. The long-desired technical and artistic change finally began as Hanke applied his skills to the hitherto traditional stoneware production, collaborating with

Peter Dümler, a talented designer in his company. By 1872, they developed a plaster vessel mold for repeated use, accommodating a thrown clay barrel. This new method enabled Hanke to create intricate, custom-made objects. Honored at world fairs and the recipient of numerous international awards, Hanke is seen as a legitimate heir to the long-standing Rhenish stoneware potters.

Progress now took its course. Driven by factory owners Friedrich Wilhelm Merkelbach II and Georg Peter Wick, improvements in industrialized production increased significantly. This marked a transformative era where traditional German stoneware could now be efficiently mass-produced.

Moreover, the educational reforms initiated by the Prussian government led to the establishment of three major technical colleges devoted solely to ceramics: in Landshut, Bavaria (1873); in Höhr–Grenzhausen (1879); and the former Silesian Bunzlau, now Bolesławiec in Poland (1897). The potter's craft transitioned from being solely passed down through hands-on apprenticeships to becoming a subject of scientific research and analysis, reflecting a broader spectrum of knowledge and skills beyond traditional workshop teachings.


Art Nouveau


During the increasing industrialization, an artistic counter-movement arose all over Europe at the turn of the 20th century, striving for a renewed strengthening of individualized craftsmanship.

To prevent the region's stoneware manufacturers from missing the boat, internationally renowned artists and designers were engaged. In 1901, Henry van de Velde (1863-1957) arrived in Westerwald, sparking a radical shift in stylistic approach. Simultaneously, Peter Behrens (1868-1940) contributed style drafts and templates, infusing the traditional greyish-blue appearance of Westerwald stoneware with a contemporary design.

Certain factory owners, including Simon Peter Gerz I, Merkelbach & Wick, and Reinhold Merkelbach, took an active role and established successful connections with renowned artists like Richard Riemerschmid (1868-1957). This collaboration ushered in a period of artistic renewal and innovation within the Westerwald stoneware industry.

To ensure their survival, the majority of companies continued manufacturing conventional household stoneware. Products embodying the Art Nouveau spirit appeared overly ornate for the average customer, leading to limited success for these new ceramic offerings. Only a select few companies achieved success with these new ceramic products.


Mass Production in the Post-War Period


After a reduction in output during World War II, pottery factories gradually returned to pre-war levels of activity in the 1950s, with a primary focus on the mass production of tableware. The Westerwald potteries emerged as the main designers and producers of the Fifties, experiencing a flourishing business that led to the creation of numerous new jobs. For instance, the Jasba company saw a sixfold increase in its workforce between 1948 and 1955.

Immigrant workers from Italy and Turkey also found employment in the concentrated pottery industry, centered mainly around the town of Ransbach-Baumbach. This economic miracle in the stoneware industry ushered in an era of prosperity for the Westerwald region, which endured until the 1990s.


Developments in Craft During the 20th Century


In contrast to other fields of fine art, the evolution of ceramic arts unfolded gradually and without sharp stylistic incongruities. This continuity was partly because handicrafts were not condemned as degenerate art by the Nazi regime; instead, they were supported for their perceived (Germanic) folksiness. 

Potters such as August Hanke (1875-1938) and Elfriede Balzar-Kopp (1904-1983) received high acclaim in national and international competitions for their traditional craftsmanship.

In the post-war period, Westerwald potteries survived by producing crockery in the style of the Thirties. As economic conditions improved, potters began to experiment once again, seeking more individualized forms of expression. The ceramic vessel started to free itself from its traditional role as a functional object, evolving into an autonomous art object. Creative principles from the fine arts and performing arts, such as assemblage, repetition, rhythm, or deconstruction, were applied to ceramics.

Elfriede Balzar-Kopp carving pattern, probably 1930s - photo courtesy:
Kreisbildstelle des Westerwaldkreises, Foto Georg Gerlach

Contemporary Art in Höhr-Grenzhausen


Those working or studying at the State Technical College for Ceramics (Fachschule), the Institute for Ceramic and Glass Arts (IKKG), or those active in the many workshops of the region share a common curiosity about what ceramic and glass materials can convey and how to express the art form.

But, the long history of Westerwald stoneware also calls for reflection: What does this place and region mean to us? How does our ceramic culture relate to neighboring regions or other cultures? Many artists employ century-old pottery techniques like wheel throwing or salt glazing to create new and contemporary objects. Every two years, students carry out a firing in the last functioning traditional salt kiln. By immersing themselves in this historical continuum, the region remains vibrant and well-prepared for its artistic future. The narrative of Westerwald pottery continues!


CONTRIBUTOR

Nele van Wieringen has been the Director of the Keramikmuseum Westerwald since 2018. She completed her master's degree at Koblenz University, Institute for Ceramic and Glass Arts in Höhr-Grenzhausen. There, she earned her doctorate in collaboration with the University of Art and Design Linz with a thesis on the art-theoretical conception of color in ceramics.

Visions of Shigaraki, Japan


To see ceramic destinations in Shigaraki, Japan, and other sites worldwide, check out Ceramic World Destinations (CWD), MoCA/NY's interactive map listing over 4,000 destinations!



En Iwamura, a ceramic artist currently residing in Shigaraki, shares his experience working in the cultural heritage site and the benefits and challenges of living in the region. This essay is part of our three-part feature on the cultural heritage site Shigaraki. GET TO KNOW SHIGARAKI written by Michio Sugiyama provides insights into the historical, cultural, and traditional aspects of Shigaraki, and Hitomi Shibata shares a personal essay, Shigaraki - Our Journey in Clay, reflecting on her time living, working, and making art in Shigaraki.
Miho Museum: photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Local train station - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

I was born in Kyoto, Japan, and received my BFA and MFA at the Kanazawa College of Art and Craft in Kanazawa. I decided to study in the US and received my second MFA at Clemson University. After living and working in the US for six years, I returned to Japan and moved to Shigaraki. 

Shigaraki is not far from my hometown (about 30-40 min driving distance) and I found myself missing time spent with my family while I was abroad. I also want to raise a family with my wife in Japan.

While traveling and working at residencies, I felt like a nomad. Every time I moved, I had to also transport all my studio equipment, tools, and glazes and I found this to be too burdensome and prevented me from developing a consistent studio practice. I wanted to find the perfect place to settle and Shigaraki was the place as it not only has an international ceramic reputation but also because of the quietness and peace of the atmosphere necessary for my practice. I moved to Shigaraki in 2018 as a resident artist at Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park.

Shigaraki is a small village located in southeast Shiga prefecture, and known as one of six ancient ceramic kiln sites in Japan. The environment is pretty calm, surrounded by mountains, and the population is small. The image is like a picturesque Japanese traditional old village. My first impression was “What a beautiful and peaceful place!” It was nice to stay away from the business of the city and have a place to focus solely on my work. I quickly fell in love with the city.

Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Palace ruins Shigaraki - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

Of course, even with the positive aspects of Shigaraki, there are issues with this small village in the countryside of Japan. A key issue is the low population density. Getting to know the community and communicating with local people, I began to realize the reality of this place. After many years of shrinking demands for Japanese ceramic industries, there are so many factories and businesses that are closing, risking the future of this cultural heritage site. The younger generation of local people is leaving Shigaraki for a bigger city to seek their own life therefore, their heritage, passed down from generation to generation is disappearing. So, there are many empty houses and factories but people have no idea how they should approach these challenges.

En Iwamura in his studio in Shigaraki
En Inwamura's ceramic in his studio in Shigaraki
En Inwamura's ceramic in his studio in Shigaraki
En Inwamura's ceramic in his studio in Shigaraki

As an artist who works at this cultural heritage site, I would like to use existing resources and am thinking about the potential of the town. Thinking about all the empty factories, and houses, I would like to see the younger generations of people utilize the opportunities Shigaraki provides and create their own creative and innovative community here. For instance, I bought an abandoned gift shop and renovated it as my studio. I hope to see some kind of new creators’ community here in the future to preserve Shigaraki and its culture, traditions, and history.


CONTRIBUTOR:

En Iwamura

En Iwamura was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1988. Under the influence of both parents who are painters, he grew up in an artistic environment. After graduating with a BFA in craft at the Kanazawa College of Art and Craft, he began to be interested in the international Art world. he considers that ceramic has the potential to be one of the international languages, that can cross different cultures, people, and countries. En Iwamura's current research investigates how he can influence and alter the experience of viewers who occupy space with his installation artworks.

WEBSITE


SHIGARAKI - Our Journey in Clay

Hitomi Shibata, a ceramic artist and author of the book Wild Clay, shares a personal essay about her time living, working, and making art in Shigaraki. This essay is part of our three-part feature on the cultural heritage site Shigaraki, aiming to provide the most robust coverage of this historically rich and significant region. Read the first feature - Get to Know Shigaraki written by Michio Sugiyama, which provides insights into the historical, cultural, and traditional aspects of Shigaraki. Stay tuned for the last essay written by Shigaraki-based ceramic artist En Iwamura which will be published later this month. Subscribe to MoCA/NY and follow us on social media to keep up-to-date on upcoming features and interviews!
Takuro and Hitomi in front of our Shigaraki style Anagama plus a chamber wood kiln in Seagrove, NC. Photo taken in 2022 - photo courtesy: Takuro and Hitomi Shibata
Wheel Throwing studio at the Shigaraki Ceramic Research Institute. This research center provides pottery training programs to support succession planning in Shigaraki - photo courtesy: Mr. Hiroaki Takahata, A Chief of Ceramics Design Department, Shigaraki Ceramic Research Institute

I first became involved with ceramics in 1990 as a craft education major at Okayama University in Japan. I found ceramics to be the most challenging medium, so I worked diligently to become proficient. In 1996, after earning a master's degree in art education with a concentration in ceramics, I became an artist-in-residence at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, which is the most prestigious international ceramic art center in Japan.

Shigaraki, a small town steeped in a thousand-year legacy of pottery, was one of the few places in Japan where young potters who were not from pottery families could learn how to make a living, and this experience led me to pursue a career as a professional potter.

During my time in Shigaraki, I held a variety of positions, from employee at a local pottery studio to sales representative at retail and wholesale pottery galleries, but my most educational and useful job experience was as a research assistant at the Ceramic Research Institute.

My thirst for knowledge and practical experience was insatiable, but as a young female potter, I faced numerous challenges. It was during this period that I met Takuro Shibata, who would become my lifelong partner and teammate.

Takuro had earned a degree in applied chemistry at Doshisha University in Kyoto and had been working as an engineer in his hometown of Osaka. However, in 1997, he seized an opportunity to become an apprentice at Tanikan Gama, one of Shigaraki's oldest pottery studios.

His apprenticeship not only allowed him to hone his craft but also facilitated interactions with numerous other potters and ceramics businesses in this historic pottery town.

Together, we leased a modest studio space in Shigaraki's historic kiln site area and embarked on our journey as independent potters. While we sold our pottery in galleries, we also juggled various other jobs. At times, we engaged in mass production for the commercial market, although it wasn't our preferred path, it was a necessary step to make a living. Our true passion lay in the Shigaraki style of wood firing, and we took advantage of every opportunity to participate in wood firings and refine our craft. Despite being young and strapped for resources, we poured our hearts into chasing our dreams.

Old Noborigama’s details - photo courtesy: Takuro Shibata
Old Noborigama on the pottery trail - photo courtesy: Takuro and Hitomi Shibata

Shigaraki has a flourishing ceramic industry, supported by a diverse range of auxiliary businesses. These encompass local clay companies, clay cooperatives, tool manufacturers, kiln builders, glaze producers, machine workshops, box makers, freelance wheel throwers, wholesale enterprises, and a multitude of shops and galleries. 

Additionally, the town hosts several educational ceramic art organizations such as the Shigaraki Ceramic Research Institute and the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park. These institutions offer programs for ceramic material research, pottery training, and cultural exchange, regularly hosting lectures, workshops, and events that foster connections between professional ceramic artists and potters from local, national, and international communities. This exposure inspired us to seek opportunities abroad as we aimed to further our careers in ceramics.

The Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park’s International Clay Studio accommodates about 10 ceramic artists from Japan and abroad. The artists work together to create a diverse atmosphere in the old pottery town by sharing studio space, accommodations, firings, information, and cultural exchange. photo courtesy: Takuro and Hitomi Shibata
One of the biggest clay companies, Seido, in Shigaraki. There are many filter press machines in their huge building - photo courtesy: Takuro and Hitomi Shibata
A view of Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park’s Clay studio from their wood kiln site - photo courtesy: Takuro and Hitomi Shibata

Today, Shigaraki is a unique pottery village that blends the old and the new, tradition and innovation, and toughness and kindness. While it was not our permanent home, it was a place where we honed our skills, deepened our understanding of materials, and expanded our knowledge. It is a powerful and special place that attracts people from all over the world. Now, there are many new businesses, shared studios, and interesting events taking place in Shigaraki. They are seeds for a new era and a hope for the future of the ceramic field.

Tanikangama was one of the oldest and biggest pottery studios in Shigaraki, and Takuro studied there as an apprentice for several years - photo courtesy: Takuro and Hitomi Shibata
One of the remaining old kilns in Shigaraki. This old Noborigama was well maintained and tourists can see it on the pottery trail - photo courtesy: Takuro and Hitomi Shibata

CONTRIBUTOR:

Hitomi Shibata

Hitomi Shibata is a Japanese ceramic artist based in Seagrove, North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor of Education in Art and Craft, and a Master of Education in Fine Art, Ceramics from Okayama University in Japan. In 2001-2002, she received a Rotary Foundation Scholarship to study at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. She has been a member of the International Academy of Ceramics since 2017, and is a co-author of Wild Clay, published by Bloomsbury Publishing, London, UK in 2022.

WEBSITE

Instagram: @studiotouya @hitomishibataceramics

GET TO KNOW: Shigaraki, Japan

MoCA/NY asked three Japanese ceramic artists and academics to collaborate on our feature exploring the traditions, culture, and history of the significant cultural heritage site Shigaraki in Japan. Stay tuned for Hitomi Shibata's personal essay about her time working and participating in the artist-in-residence program at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, and En Iwamura's essay about his experience working as an artist in Shigaraki.

Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Michio Sugiyama, who formally worked at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, currently operates as Director of “Shigaraki Share Studio.” Sugiyama, with his extensive knowledge of the region, answers critical questions about the cultural heritage site. 

HISTORY OF SHIGARAKI

Shigaraki, one of Japan’s Six Ancient Kilns Sites, is one of the oldest pottery-producing regions in Japan. Shigaraki was a crossroads for transportation between Nara and Yamashiro of the central Kinai region and the Tokai region (Nagoya area).

Since Shigaraki is near Kyoto and Nara, where the tea ceremony was born, Shigaraki teaware developed naturally. With rich deposits of high-quality clay, Shigaraki is an ideal location for potters.

Shiga Prefecture on MoCA/NY's Ceramic World Destinations Map
Old Shigaraki Ware from 15th C. - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

The Koka region (the southernmost part of Shiga prefecture), where Shigaraki ware is fired, is adjacent to the Iga region (Mie prefecture), and it is said that Shigaraki-ware and Iga-ware are very similar, but this is because they are made from the same clay layer of the Old Biwa Lake layer, which gives a unique clay flavor known as "Old Shigaraki.'' The rustic and warm feeling of the clay is due to this Old Lake Biwa layer.

By the end of the medieval period, Shigaraki potters were making jars, vats, and mortars and firing them in anagama kilns. Shigaraki had begun to develop its unique style as one of Japan’s pottery-producing centers.

Shigaraki-ware is known for the special quality of its clay. By firing in anagama or noborigama wood-firing kilns, effects such as warm, reddish hiiro flashing, deep green natural ash biidoro, or burnt black koge can be achieved. As a form of art using the media of clay and fire, Shigaraki pottery communicates the Japanese aesthetic of wabi and sabi to the present age.

Old Climbing Kiln - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Firing Anagama N. Shinohara - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

The rusticity of Shigaraki ware expresses the emotions of the Japanese people. For this reason, since the Muromachi (1338-1573) and Momoyama periods (1573-1603), Shigaraki teaware evolved along with the tea ceremony and was prized by tea masters and people of culture. Charcoal braziers with namako glazeware for tea ceremonies became increasingly popular through the Muromachi, Azuchi, and Momoyama periods. 

In the Edo period (1603-1867), tea jars were produced in large numbers, and as a commercial infrastructure developed, daily cooking ware such as plum jars, miso jars, sake bottles, and flameware began to be produced in mass quantities.

In the Meiji era (1868-1912), Shigaraki potters began to produce hibachi charcoal braziers glazed with the newly developed namako mottled blue glaze. These hibachi proved to be extremely popular, at one point garnering a more than 90% share of the market across Japan. In addition to hibachi, Shigaraki produced small wares such as ritual vessels, sake vessels, and tea ware, along with large wares such as storage jars in ever-increasing levels of both quantity and quality.

In the Showa era (1926-1989), particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, one result of Japan’s rapid economic growth was the development and popularization of electric and oil heaters. The rise in the standard of living along with changes in the Japanese lifestyle meant a severe decline in the demand for hibachi, a catastrophic development for the Shigaraki economy.

Kaiseki cuisine served in Shigaraki ware bowls (UOSEN)
Kaiseki cuisine served in Shigaraki Ware (UOSEN)
Small sushi served in Shigaraki plate (UOSEN)
Cooking rice in the hot pot (UOSEN)

However, the innovation of local craftsmen combined with traditional techniques resulted in the adaptation of the namako glaze to ceramic planters. The emphasis of production shifted to planters for high-quality bonsai and other plants. These new products were well received by consumers.

Shigaraki ware was designated as a traditional craft by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of the Japanese Government in 1976, and in April 2017, Shigaraki ware was certified as a Japanese heritage as one of the "Six Ancient Kilns of Japan.'' 

Product of Shigaraki with Flower Arrangement

Flower Vase - N. Shinohara
Flower Vase - N. Shinohara

SHIGARAKI TODAY

Organizations in Shigaraki today include the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, the Shigaraki Ceramic Research Institute,and the Shigaraki Pottery Industrial Cooperative Union,which is comprised of over 100 manufacturers.

The Shigaraki Pottery Wholesale Commercial Union has over 40 wholesalers, and the Shigaraki Art and Craft Ceramists Association is made up of over 80 ceramic artists.

By fully utilizing its high-quality clay and technological tradition, Shigaraki ware enhances our enjoyment of life. Shigaraki is now striving to become a world center for ceramics, creating a new culture of ceramic art based on historical tradition.

Tanuki Figures - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

Shigaraki today produces utilitarian ware such as planters, flower vases, and tableware, as well as exterior ceramics such as architectural tile, garden furniture, and decorative ornaments such as tanuki (raccoon), dogs, and frogs. 

Shigaraki ceramics are rooted in our daily life and new technologies are developed in response to demand. Shigaraki clay is highly refractory, and while high in plasticity, it is also strong, making it ideal for both large-scale ceramics and small work.

The ability to develop and construct in a variety of ways is one of the unique characteristics of Shigaraki ware.

Anagama Firied Bowl(Y.Sako)
Vase (N. Shinohara)
Mizusashi N.Shinohara

There is also a characteristic phenomenon of kiln change that is often seen in old Shigaraki. One of its characteristics is that the surface of the vessel is rough and contains many fine stone grains (quartz grains, feldspar grains, and silica sand).

In addition to ash glaze, there are many types of glazes, such as the “sea cucumber glaze'' seen on flower pots and braziers, probably because there are few painted products, and the molding, drying, and firing techniques used to create large items are also typical of Shigaraki ware. 

Another characteristic of Shigaraki ware is that you can enjoy a wide variety of pottery, such as yakishime and kohiki, depending on the artist. Therefore, it can be said that modern Shigaraki ware is unique and uses a variety of techniques.

Vase N. Shinohara
Work of N.Shinohara

Like many traditional craft production areas, the recent annual production of Shigaraki ware is around 3.5 billion yen. This is about one-fifth of its peak in 1992 (16.8 billion yen). The number of establishments has also decreased by about three-quarters.

The lack of successors is especially serious. There are no living national treasures among Shigaraki ware potters. This is because "We have made everything without specializing in one thing'' (President Takahara). There are both advantages and disadvantages of Shigaraki ware. However, if one technology is not inherited, it will simply die out.

Large Bath Tub made in Shigaraki - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

However, looking at the modern history of Shigaraki ware, even if an item no longer sells, new items are always created. Current hit products such as bathtubs is an example of this.

Even in the world of traditional ceramics, there are no Living National Treasures in Shigaraki ware, but many potters, from veterans to young potters, are taking on the challenge of creating the natural glazes produced by firing in anagama kilns.

Although the pottery industry generally has a difficult time finding successors, younger generations are gradually increasing in number, drawn to the charm of this Shigaraki production area, and it is a hope that they will become the bearers of a new Shigaraki tradition.

Factory Uzan - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Factory Making Large Bath tub Okuda - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
View of Pottery town Shigaraki - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Factory making table ware Hinomigama - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Tea plantation - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

CONTRIBUTOR

MICHIO SUGIYAMA

Michio Sugiyama has MFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland California. After graduating, he moved to Montana to attend the AIR at the Archie Bray Foundation. In 1989. He returned to Japan and worked at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Shiga Pref. He has been organizing and operating the Artist in Residency at the SCCP until 2020. In 2018 he established a private rental ceramic studio, in Shigaraki named SHIGARAKI SHARE STUDIO and now he is the Director of the Share Studio. He is a member of the IAC and the Japan Ceramic Society.

READ MORE ABOUT SHIGARAKI