A solo exhibition of Shigaraki ceramic artist Katsunori Sawa was held at Asakusa Japanese Pottery Gallery Tobetobekusa, Tokyo from April 10 to 18, 2021.
One of the characteristics of Katsunori’s works is their wide range of variations. Shigaraki conveys the power of clay and fire, while Oribe is rich in individuality, with joyful painting and a playful spirit. Together with Shino, Hikidashi-guro, and other styles, the works created by his hands offer a great diversity of charms. Among those styles, this exhibition specialized in his Shigaraki pieces. After four days of firing the wood-fired kiln, we were greeted with an impressive array of completed works.
Shigaraki ware follows a simple production process of molding the clay and firing it without glazing, but the differences in clay and the way it is shaped and fired result in an amazing variety of works. This exhibition featured beautiful naturally ash-glazed tea bowls, guardian dogs with charming expressions, tableware in scarlet, the symbolic color of Shigaraki, and uniquely shaped flower vases. The flowers arranged gracefully in the flower vases were collected by Katsunori himself from the mountains of Shigaraki. The works and the flowers brilliantly complemented each other’s beauty.
No one piece is the same as the other, as each is created with the energy of nature and withstands firing at high temperatures. Of particular note are the works that use the hikidashi or “withdrawal” technique, in which select pieces are pulled out of the kiln during firing and cooled rapidly. The ash that falls in the kiln melts at a high temperature and becomes glassy, and when it is cooled rapidly, it takes a beautiful blue-green color that sparkles in the light. Catching a view of these colors while drinking gives one a taste of great joy. Such pieces are very rare, however, as only a limited number of pieces can be withdrawn from the kiln during any given firing. Katsunori said that this is a precious thing, because “It is especially difficult for the smaller sake cups like guinomi. They roll around in the kiln or get buried sometimes.” This time, we also found a slightly light purple-colored sake cup. According to Katsunori, this is not a color you see very often either.
Each time he holds a solo exhibition, Katsunori’s Shigaraki works give pleasure to his fans with a new look. We certainly look forward to his future exhibitions.
Written by Kyoko Tsutsumi