Katsuhiko Matsui

It seems Katsuhiko Matsui needed to travel the world to discover the ceramic history of his hometown, Echizen. Matsui’s world travels began in his youth, spending two years in California. He eventually traveled to Norway where at a friend’s studio he touched clay for the first time. Returning to Japan, a chance encounter with master potter Kinjo Akemitsu led to a two-year apprenticeship studying Karatsu pottery (glazed ceramics usually with iron underglaze decorations fired in noborigama kilns). Concluding his studies in Okinawa, Matsui came across an article in the newspaper on Echizen ceramics. This chance encounter led him back to his birthplace where he decided to establish his own studio. Back in Echizen, Matsui continued making Karatsu-style ceramics. He built his first kiln, a large version of a Frederick Olsen downdraft wood-fired kiln. As Matsui’s work matured and unglazed Echizen pottery influenced his work, he moved away from glazed pottery. Outgrowing his kiln, in 1998, he moved farther north to a newly formed artists’ community where he built an anagama of his design. This community, Kanazu Forest of Creation in the city of Awara, remains his current home.  Matsui remarked that when he was younger, he never wanted to make old-style pots. He wanted to create something new. As he matured, he was drawn more and more to old utilitarian shapes. He feels he best expresses himself in these forms. A stroll in Matsui’s studio reveals pots made for serving food and drink. His sake bottles and teapots have varied undulating forms, which invite the touch of a hand. The pictured hourglass- shaped bottle with horizontal drips of natural ash wrapping across the form seemingly defying gravity is a particularly stunning example of Matsui’s work. Turning the pot reveals a circle of a bare clay body framed with white and green ash. Content making the old style pots he once avoided in his youth, these traditional shapes act as canvases in Matsui’s kiln. 

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