If you have a background in design, a pottery hobby, or simply an eye for aesthetics, you would appreciate handmade Japanese ceramics. Despite being around for thousands of years, they continue to evolve and adapt to the current times.

Contemporary artists in Japan are also carving out niches for themselves by blending traditional pottery styles with work that appeals to the modern world. Textures, firing methods, coloring and shapes communicate the artistic and emotional content of Japanese ceramics. 

Molded with care and designed by hand, no two ceramic pieces are alike. These small details play a significant role in giving ceramics their distinctiveness, story and value. When in Japan, do check out these contemporary ceramic artists.



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Woaw Gallery (@woawgallery)

1. En Iwamura

Born in Kyoto, En Iwamura is an artist and painter who works mainly with watercolors and stoneware clay. Since both of his parents are artists, art comes naturally to him. He depicts ceramics influenced by ancient Japanese artifacts, Haniwa burial figures (terracotta clay figures), monsters in children’s books, Japanese dry gardens, manga and pop culture. In most of his work today, he draws inspiration from the philosophy of Ma. Ma translates into a pause in time. The core of this Japanese concept is taking time to feel, create, connect and breathe again. Today, most of his art pieces reflect this concept.

Photo via Gallery Voice

2. Toru Kurokawa

Toru Kurokawa’s Instagram feed is a treat to the eyes. Often based on geometric patterns found in nature, he expresses abstract beauty through his ceramic creations. Think of honeycombs, plants, wasp nests, stalactites and coral for a feeling of similarity in his artwork. 

Art by Yui Suzuki

3. Yui Suzuki

The beauty of Yui Suzuki’s ceramic artwork is that they always have an element of fun in them. Her sculptures revolve around mythical and animal figures dipped in vivid colors.

After completing a master’s degree at Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts & Music, she started working with paintings and ceramics at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park. In her ceramics, she depicts the everyday lives of folklore characters and myths from various cultures. The stories behind Suzuki’s artwork give an aesthete a peek inside her mind and imagination. 



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kazunori Hamana (@kazunorihamana)

4. Kazunori Hamana

Born in Osaka, Kazunori Hamana lives a simple life filled with activities close to his heart. Besides being an experienced fisherman and a farmer of organic rice, he is also a self-taught ceramicist. As a child, he developed a deep philosophical interest in the universe. Both on a micro and macro level, he became increasingly aware of the impermanence of life, and that concept affected his lifestyle and work.

Using modern techniques in shaping, coloring, glazing and firing, he creates ceramic artwork influenced by the ancient Japanese ceramic styles and symbols of the Jomon (14,000–300 BCE) and Yayoi (300 BCE–300 CE) eras. Inspired by traditional Japanese tsubo (“vases” or “jars”), he creates large and delicate handmade vessels from natural clay sourced from Shiga Prefecture. Besides the massive clay jars, he makes terracotta burial statues and everyday objects. 



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Yuji Ueda (@yuji____ueda)

5. Yuji Ueda

Yuji Ueda is not only a gifted contemporary ceramist but a painter as well. Born in Shiga Prefecture, he hails from a family of award-winning tea farmers. Under the guidance of acclaimed ceramist, Yasuhisa Kohyama, Ueda studied ceramics and began experimenting with glazing and firing techniques to create unique ceramic art forms. He later went on to build an anagama kiln (cave kiln). His ceramic objects range in size from paperweights to objects as large as two meters. You can find them at selected shops, galleries and art fairs across Japan. 


6. Otani Workshop

Otani Workshop’s ceramic artwork does not need any introduction. He creates pieces with an iconic feel and a playful edge. Based in Shiga Prefecture, he works with materials such as metal, clay, paint and recycled wood to create his ceramics. He usually makes ceramic figures with bulging heads, long arms and round-cheeked faces of innocent babies and animals. He does not always portray cuteness and happiness in his work. Some pieces evoke feelings of sadness and emptiness. 



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Yukiko Kuroda (@yukiko_krd)

7. Yukiko Kuroda

Yukiko Kuroda specializes in a popular ceramic repair technique such as kintsugi (the art of repairing broken ceramics). She joyfully collects and accepts ceramic objects with cracks, fissures and chips. She supports the kintsugi technique as it reduces waste and encourages recycling. Mixing lacquer with powdered gold, silver and pewter, she repairs these broken ceramics and gives them a second chance at life.


8. Tomonari Hashimoto

There is no denying that Tomonari Hashimoto’s monolithic ceramic pieces are monumental. He uses a particular hand-forming method to pile up strings of clay to form these massive geometric forms.

From ceramics and mortar, he creates rectangles, spheres, squares, cylinders, heptagons and hexagons. One of the biggest influences in his life is his father. In the same way that Hashimoto creates large objects, his father does the same. Sometimes with plaster casts and other times with bronze statues. 



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by onree (@onreeeeeee)

9. Onree

Four years ago, Onree hopped on a plane to Japan from New York. He is a mixed-media artist who specializes in ceramics. Having worked with ceramics for at least seven years, he combines contemporary ceramic techniques with traditional production.

Music and elements found in nature inspire his artistic style. His signature ceramic style is ishihaze (stone explosion). Small rocks emerge from ceramic artwork after firing. As an artist, he creates both display pieces and functional pieces like tableware.

Art by Stephen Kissick

10. Stephen Kissick

Stephen Kissick is a craftsperson from Northern Ireland. In love with the textures and colors of natural materials, he gravitates toward stone, clay and wood. His passion involves wood firing, its primitive nature and its rituals. Careerwise, he began as a luthier and eventually turned to Japanese ceramics as his passion.

He learned the basics of Japanese ceramics at a pottery studio in Mashiko in Tochigi Prefecture. In the process, he also ended up picking up the language there. He now spends most of his time in Tokyo hosting ceramic workshops, promoting his work at various exhibitions and exploring new coffee houses around the city.