– ARTIST PROFILE –
Imagine a delicate pale blue and white flower floating on the water, see how the light plays and dances on it. Take a few steps and look at it from a different angle, appreciate how the view and beauty changes.
Holding and looking at these quietly stunning ceramic works from Kotaro Ikura conjures similar visions and thoughts.
Ikura-san was born into a ceramics family, the first son of a fourth generation Yagyu Yaki (ceramics artisan) in the ancient town of Nara, the original capital of Japan, near Kyoto. His path was to take over the family business, being the son of a famous potter. As a young boy, he was fascinated by his father’s working, standing by his side for hours as he threw pottery, but he wasn’t allowed to do it himself. So, his interest waned over time — preferring, as most kids do, to run and play with friends.
After high school, he wasn’t sure what to do, so he went to Osaka Art University, figuring that he would eventually end up helping his father and ultimately take over the business. However, when he was finally able to touch the wheel there, he was transformed. From his observations of his father when he was young, he had a bit of a head start and much of the work came naturally. When he returned home after school, he dove into his passion — porcelain, which is a completely different technique and was not part of the family business.
With his skill in pottery, it might have been easier for him to follow his father’s footsteps as a master potter, but he was determined to delve into his love of porcelain. His attempts the first few years, as is often the case, weren’t to his liking, but he kept at it and persevered — eventually winning several prestigious awards. Ikura-san’s father watched as his son struggled, but the elder Ikura never criticized.
In 2009, he made the decision to go independent.
Ikura-san started by creating “blue white” porcelain — a delicate light blue porcelain that originated many centuries ago in China. The blue is a result of a small amount of iron that tends to pool in the bottom of a vessel in subtle gradations, giving it the fleeting appearance of water that seems to move.
Becoming comfortable with this technique, Ikura-san wanted to take it further. So he decided on creating new pieces using an ancient technique called Hotarude (蛍手) — a traditional method of Chinese and Japanese pottery that is created by making small holes or carvings on the surface, and then covering them with a thin glaze to make the beautiful transparent patterns you see in his plates.
He calls this series "mizu no hana" (水ノ華), meaning "flower of the water" — the name was coined when he showed his first Hotarude efforts to some fellow ceramists who he respected.
Ikura-san’s father, Toshio, passed away earlier this year. Reflecting back, he knows his decisions caused his father to worry about him with the love of a parent. “After his passing” he says, ”I often wonder if he lived his life for me. Because of him, I could focus on my work comfortably.”We are proud to present the creations that are interwoven with his vision and his family relationship.
Sand and Clay — The Fusion of Simplistic Beauty
The crystalline beauty of glass and the delicate sensibilities of porcelain brought together in stunning simplicity.
This is the work of Japanese artisan Misa Tanaka from Kyoto, who has forged the best of both worlds. We are incredibly excited to showcase her works here on Japan Suite. We met with Tanaka-san on our last trip to Japan and had a very enjoyable time learning about her life, her work and her vision. Her creations beautifully illustrate this delicate balance between softness and strength.
Tanaka-san began as a glass artist, but also had a close friend who was working in ceramics whose work she admired. She began thinking about fusing the two processes together. She learned that she could use the same kiln for glass and porcelain — and then built a small kiln and prefab housing in her parent’s yard to further her work and learnings.
She begins by shaping the ceramic portion of the work by a hand-wheel, then she creates a mold for the glass part. She melds the two creations tightly together, and finishes the process by sanding and polishing.
Tanaka-san has had to move around Japan several times due to her husband’s successful career, but has kept her kiln in Kyoto and travels there regularly to create her beautiful pieces. We were impressed by Tanaka-san’s character, which exudes a subtle humility with great inner strength.
She works in multiple colors of glass, and we would be happy to arrange the color of your choice to fit what you desire. We hope you are as impressed by her unique and beautiful creations as we are.
Atsushi Ogata got a bit of a late start in the world of pottery, but is quickly making up for any lost time. Art was not an obvious or early choice for Ogata, who was born and raised in Tokyo. After college, he spent several years in the publishing world before being introduced to pottery by his wife, who he met while both were in college. His wife left her job as a teacher to study pottery in Seto City, a famous city for ceramics and pottery, located in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture. When she graduated, Ogata quit his editor job and also studied pottery in Seto. After graduating, Ogata and his wife worked for another artisan, and they also began showing their pieces at a market in Seto City.
His style developed from decorative to simple as he grew — evolving to rough and masculine shapes. And it was just natural part of this process that his focus shifted to making art for everyday use around the home.
Ogata held a belief that unrefined clay shows the original characteristics of the ground it came from - the essential elemental character of the soil itself. As this philosophy developed and matured, he traveled to many areas of Japan to find the type of clay he liked most. Eventually, he and his wife settled in a remote part of the Nara countryside where he found the clay he really appreciated and built his kilns there. They still reside and maintain a studio in that Nara countryside.
Ogata wants people who use his pottery and who enjoy his work to feel the nature in each piece. His wish is to bring that nature to the dining table.
Aya Yuki creates wonderfully beautiful works full of subtlety and depth, much like gazing at a star-filled night sky. The more you look, the deeper you can go. And this is reflected in the name she has chosen to brand her work — 天の (tenno). “Ten” means “sky” in a poetic way in Japanese, and a friend suggested the name to her, telling Yuki that she should make millions of works like stars in the sky. We think it is a perfect name.
Aya was born in Nomi City, near Kanazawa in Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture, which has long been a center for traditional Japanese crafts. She began her career there at Kutani-Yaki Studio. Her inspiration is simple. She is fascinated by the process of applying heat to clay to create a beautiful object.
“There is clay, there is the wheel, there is glaze, and I fire them in kiln,” says Yuki. “I want to inspire people about how this simple process creates such an intricate and complex looking object.”
Her works have a beautiful texture with layers and depths of colors, which we tend to mistake as pottery, but these are actually porcelain. She allows her creations to cool slowly in the kiln, bringing out the subtle colors and hints of sparkles ingrained in them. It’s a stunning effect.
Aya says she has no particular artist who influenced her, but draws daily inspiration from a person who saw her work and taught her about Zen Buddhism. She began to research Zen, and applies it to her life and her work. Her days are always busy, but she has an approach — a mantra — she uses. “Keep calm, it’s ok, is my chant everyday,” says Yuki. “My wish and my hope is that this leads to the truly calm future.”
Examining her exquisite creations, we can see her inspiration and in turn are inspired.
Japan Suite is pleased to showcase glass artist Koto Tsuchiya's jewelry works.
Tsuchiya has been always interested and inspired by beauty of the nature. The typical texture of her works came to be when she was looking at a collection of dried leaves, and their intricate pattern of veins inspired her to re-imagine them in her creations. She started to work on sticks of glass material to create leaf veins. It is a painstaking process that requires extreme concentration. “If I lose focus, I might have to start over from scratch,” she laughs.
Despite her thin, fragile appearance, she has exceptional inner strength and a strong will to pursue her artistic career. Her creations match this.
Japan Suite is pleased to present a series of Edo Kiriko Glass works by Toru Horiguchi, who works and resides in Tokyo. Edo Kiriko is a traditional Japanese method of creating beautiful cut glass dating back nearly 200 years to the late Edo Period.
Imagine the glass you are about to drink from in the same way you might look at a beautiful precious stone. As you examine it from different angles, bringing the glass to your mouth to drink, you are presented with a new vision, a new beauty as the angles change. Equally important is how that glass feels in your hand. The artisans carrying on the nearly 200-year old tradition of making Edo Kiriko glassware are well aware of this and strive to create beautiful cut-glass items you can use and enjoy every day. Everytime you look at them, you see them a little differently. Toru Horiguchi, whose beautiful works we proudly offer here, is one such artisan carrying on the Edo Kiriko tradition, while also pushing the boundaries. He strives to create glassware that is beautiful and also feels great to use. Edo Kiriko is characterized by its very precise designs and execution. Horiguchi is exploring new realms here—working to incorporate the abstract into the precise. He says his best creations are inspired by everyday things around him, not by thinking too deeply or profoundly.
Japanese cut glass of the Edo Kiriko style originated in 1834 during the late Edo Period when Kyubei Kagaya, inspired by cut glassware brought to Japan by Dutch traders, originated his own cutting techniques by sculpting glass with emery. This was a peaceful period in Japan, and the new style of glass reflected a country at peace. It is considered playful and something beautiful that can be used every day. The use of glass for everyday things gained much greater popularity in the second half of the 19th century as more and more western ideas came to Japan.
Edo Kiriko is characterized by smooth cuts with rounded edges. This creates glassware that sparkles, glints and shows a different side of its beauty depending on where you view it from. The craftspeople who create Edo Kiriko glassware have taken a technique from abroad and developed a type of glassware that has become a distinct part of the Japanese culture.
Horiguchi’s grandfather, Ichio, who took on the pen name Shuseki, was a skilled master of the Edo Kiriko style. He passed the torch to the second Shuseki - Tomio Suda - who trained Toru Horiguchi, the current third Shuseki. “Succession names” like Shuseki hold great honor and importance for those they are bestowed upon. Horiguchi always is conscious of this honor and the responsibility that comes with it. Only the finest creations are allowed the Shuseki brand, signifying their great beauty and quality. We are inspired by Horiguchi’s dedication and the elegant beauty of his creations.
Works of Art for Daily Life
From the oldest studio in one of the most famous lacquerware regions in Japan, we are honored to present the work of Kihachi Studio, creators of exquisite works of art designed for everyday use.
Kihachi Studio, was founded in Yamanaka in 1882. Yamanaka, in Ishikawa Prefecture in the west of Japan, has long been a center of expertise and brilliance in producing lacquerware. Kihachi Studios use only wood from trees grown in Japan and native lacquer.
Yamanaka artists long ago pioneered the use of rokuro — also known as a lathe — to create their works. Kihachi employs rokuro methods, using natural materials to create beautiful wares that you can use every day and enjoy for many, many years. With regular use, lacquerware gains it’s own unique character, making each piece its own individual work of art. Grain emerges from shadows, color takes on deeper or muted hues — the piece evolves and has its own life.
We have visited Kihachi’s store in Kanzawa and we have also taken the train from there down to Yamanaka to witness the creation of fine lacquerware first hand — coming away impressed, humbled, and in love with the region. We are proud to offer these stunning creations from Kihachi Studios.
approx. 5.9"D 1.57"H (150mm D 40mm H)
Lacquered Sennoki wood
$69.00 Purchase here
These bowls are light as a flower petal, and like a flower petal, they appear to be in motion. We jokingly call the lighter one a potato chip. But don’t be fooled into thinking they are too delicate to use. They are incredibly durable thanks to their lacquer finish. So you can enjoy these flowers of wood for a long time. They really are stunningly beautiful.
Beautiful, exquisite, soft white porcelain that is semi-translucent and nearly defies description. That is the work of amazing ceramics artist Kiyoko Morioka who lives and creates in Ishikawa Prefecture.
We first came upon her work during a visit to Kanazawa on an exploration of one of Japan’s three most beautiful and famous gardens — Kenrokuen. In the visitor center, there was an exhibition of local ceramics artists. We were immediately taken with the stunningly elegant simplicity of Morioka-san’s works. Now, we are proud and excited to bring them to Japan Suite and to the world.
Morioka-san works with “kutani” clay, but unlike traditional kutani porcelain, originating and made famous centuries ago in Ishikawa, she does not paint them with elaborate artwork — instead preferring to let the clay stand on its own. The look and feel are simple and subtle — yet so exquisite. Her pieces are deceptively strong and durable for a ceramic that appears to be so delicate and ultra thin. She throws the clay to its thinnest possible form and fires at 1300 C, then polishes to fortify the porous surface to resist dirt and make it easy to clean.
At a casual glance they appear to be white with a nearly matte finish, but hold them up to light and new gradations subtly emerge through the semi-translucent porcelain.
Morioka-san, who also studied in Denmark, has recently been certified as a traditional craftsperson in Japan. She still plays soccer, a passion of hers since grade school.
Straight Small Bowl by Kiyoko Morioka
approx. 15cm x 4.5cm (5.9"W x 1.7"H) $58
Product and purchase information, contact Japan Suite.
Showcasing traditional Japanese crafts and the artisans who create them — their stories and their art in words and visions.
Kodo Kiyooka has become known in some artisan circles as the “frying pan guy.” It’s not what he set out to become and initially, he was reluctant. But now, he has come to embrace the nickname. Of course, frying pans are far from the only thing that Kiyooka excels at.
When he began his journey to make pottery, Kiyooka strove to produce works that were sharp, sensitive and edgy — vessels that gave the impression of iron flowing out of clay. His inspiration was to make art that could be used everyday. To do this, he focuses on Sabiyuh (brown or rust colored glaze), a straw ash glaze that brings out the iron in the clay — as well as Aohai (blue ash), which uses a mixture of the Isunoki plant’s ash and various minerals. His pieces look like they are heavyweight, but are surprisingly light, achieving a beautiful marriage of masculinity and sensitivity.
After graduating from Osaka University of the Arts, he was selected to be an artist in residence at at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Japan’s Shiga Prefecture. The facility has no curriculum, so artists are free to explore the range of their talents and craft. Since leaving there, he has been working as an independent artisan, participating in solo and group shows throughout Japan.
So, how did he come to be know as the “frying pan guy?” What was to become his signature line of heat resistant vessels actually came about quite by accident. Coming home after a long day of work, Kiyooka wanted to make something simple in one dish so he wouldn’t have much to clean up after eating. His solution: a heat resistant frying pan he had created as an artistic piece. That simple idea transformed a piece of art into a useful, everyday item. It caught on when he showed the work to a gallery owner from Tokyo. They loved the pieces and the idea behind them, and asked him to display.
The rest is history. While this was not Kiyooka’s original inspiration of fucus, it worked. At the time, he hadn’t been having much success showing his art. This was an unexpected break, but it was what he needed. Even so, he wasn’t sure he was comfortable with the idea, but the more he has shown, he has embraced the title, Kiyooka, the frying pan guy. And it has allowed him to showcase the depth and breadth of all his work. We are proud to offer examples here.
Japan Suite is honored and excited to present a variety of Tenugui works by Mitsuko Ogura, a Katazome (a Japanese style of stencil dying) artist from Tokyo. A Tenugui is a traditional Japanese cotton towel, which is light and thin. We prefer to use them as scarves, head wraps, handkerchiefs, or as a wrapping cloth for a gift or to brighten up your day. They also make very nice wall hangings if you so choose.
Mitsuko Ogura is a true “Edokko”, born and raised in Edo, the former name of Tokyo. She cares about her origin, tradition and culture, and her goal is for them to be handed down from generation to generation. This is the genesis of her creations.
Though Ogura was very interested in design when she was younger, it took quite some time for her to figure out the direction she wanted to take in her career. She first studied graphic design and environmental design, particularly city design, which was a long time concern of hers in her quest to maintain the cityscape of old Tokyo.
She self-taught the Katazome printing process and explored it further at the Graduate Program of Art Research and Design at the Tokyo University. However, she truly became deeply interested in pursuing a printing career when she visited a printing factory that her childhood friend’s father was about to close down. During the booming economy, a lot of traditional handcraft shops were going out of business, but she found the exact thing she wanted to pursue there. The owner of the printing was renowned traditional dye artist Kozaburo Nishi. Ogura says “I knew he was my mentor as soon as I met him”.
After a period of time working and learning from Nishi, she established the Ogura Design & Dye Studio where she performs virtually every step of the production process from creating the original design to cutting the stencils and dyeing the fabric for kimono, yukata, tenugui hand towels, hanao straps for geta, and noren curtains.
Katazome process usually involves many artisans dividing their specific areas of expertise. Ogura, though, is not interested in working and perfecting just one of the processes, but would rather work on everything from the drawing to dyeing. She also mixes in other types of printing methods to create her art--and she doesn’t require a lot of room to create her art. When we visited her temporary studio (she is moving locations soon), we were surprised how small of a space she actually needs.
Ogura particularly enjoys the creative process. When asked if she would make more of a particular Soba noodle design Yukata which we were interested in, she said frankly that she cannot repeat the same process for too long because she gets tired of it very quickly. That is when she starts to draw something new, creating a new design. At the end of each new project, the moment the new color comes out, is the most thrilling part of her work -- and she smiles.
She loves things from the Edo era -- Its design, color, creativity, art and culture that flourished in this peaceful period of Japanese history. A lot of visual and performing arts, both new and old, were cultivated around that time. Ogura learned a lot about Rakugo (Japanese style stand-up comedy – where the performer is always sitting) and various types of theater from her chatty mentor Nishi-san everyday when she went to work. She wonders where those silly, crazy story ideas and images came from and she loves their cool, witty sophistication. She absorbs vast amounts of references and motifs from the Edo period to create her own work, reflecting these times and stories. The outcome is new and fresh, which is essential for an Edo Katazome artist.
We invite you to enjoy Ogura-san’s cool graphics, inspired by life in the Edo period!
Japan Suite is happy to introduce works by Ryota Aoki who works and resides in Gifu, Japan. He is an artist who has made his mark in Japan and is now beginning to expand his work to an International audience.
Aoki-san was born with a very creative mind. When he was a child, he loved to draw, hoping to be a comics (manga) author. Over time, however, he realized there was more to drawing — it can be difficult to also tell the story, so he moved on to other pursuits.
He began making clothes, accessories, etc...until he was 20 years old, but felt he wanted to do something else. When he joined a pottery class, he discovered a new passion and decided that creating ceramics was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
“When I first touched ceramics, I knew that moment that this is it,” Aoki said. “Before that, I had just been playing around, but from that day on, I decided to dedicate my life to making ceramics.”
He studied hard and passed the test to enter ceramics training school, pouring his efforts and passions into his studies and work, hoping to become a successful professional potter.
Over time, he gained fame, and he wanted to use his knowledge to help young potters achieve their dreams. He considers that he is very fortunate to be a professional potter, so he strives to introduce and teach the allure of ceramics to more people. This could be through his own works or by organizing events to attract, encourage and educate young potters. The world of ceramics in Japan was at its peak 400 years ago, along with the popularity of tea ceremony. He thinks it’s important to shake things up to reenergize the craft.
Aoki-san works meticulously on glazes, constantly working to understand and manipulate the science of the chemical reactions into beautiful artistic creations, which are also meant for daily use. As with many Japanese artisans, he strives to create that which is beautiful, but can also be used in everyday life and grow it’s own character with each owner.
Aoki-san is now also focusing on showcasing his works outside of Japan, and actively collaborating with fashion, art, and interior industries.
Quite simply, he loves what he does, stating with a smile that, “It’s like playing. It doesn’t feel like “work”. I’m just doing what I like.” We share his excitement.
Takano Fukyusai, founder and former president of "TAKANO CHIKKO", was the son of the shopkeeper of a bamboo-crafts store which has more than 80 years of history. In 1973, he opened an workshop in Sagano, famous for being a rich source of bamboo, all by himself. He started his business in his workshop with his family. However, as his business grew and the number of craftsmen employed by him increased, he decided to relocate his company to Nagaokakyo City, one of the principal production area of precious bamboo of Kyoto on a par with Nishikyo-ku of Kyoto City and Muko City.
Today, there are craftsmen who are specialized in various arts such as Sashimono (joining), Urushi (lacquering), Maki-e (gold-relief lacquering) as well as Take-kogei (making crafts from bamboo).
Beautiful two-toned chopsticks with Lacquered in either red or black. 24cm long
Lacquered Bamboo Chopsticks, Black $45 (TB05) and stand, Bamboo $10 (TB09)
Lacquered Bamboo Chopsticks, Red $45 (TB06) and stand, Hinoki wood $10 (TB08)