Japanese Ceramics

The Japan Collection includes a number of objects made by the Japanese ceramicist Hamada Shōji (1894-1978), who is one of the world's best known ceramicists. He worked, primarily, in Mashiko, Tochigi Prefecture, when he wasn't travelling around the world, giving lectures and exhibiting his influential ceramics. Hamada is considered one of the pioneers of what has come to be known as the folk art movement. The Japanese concept of folk art (mingei) was created in the 1920s in order to classify objects made of various materials, and often by anonymous craftspeople, that are, above all, functional and which were originally made out of necessity and not, primarily, for their attractive appearance. Later, Japanese artisans, especially in ceramics and textiles, began producing new objects which are also usually called folk art.

In 1955 Hamada was awarded the Japanese honorary title of Living National Treasure, which is bestowed on prominent artisans who contribute to the development of cultural heritage. Together with Yanagi Sōetsu (1889-1961), Hamada was one of the founders of the Japanese Folk Crafts Museum (Nihon Mingeikan) in Tokyo. Between 1961 and 1977, he was its director.

At the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, there are now five ceramic objects by Hamada displayed in the permanent Japan exhibition. A pair of them were purchased at the department store NK in the 1950s and 60s, which then sold contemporary Japanese ceramics, a sign of the global significance which individual Japanese ceramicists, such as Hamada, had at that point.

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Hamada Shōji (1894-1978). Dish with green and white cross on a brown base. 1950s-60s Glazed earthenware OM-1964-0001. Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities. Photograph: Karl Zetterström