Shoji Hamada (Japanese, 1894-1978)
Covered Box , 20th century
Tenmoku glazed stoneware 2 3/8 in. x 3 1/4 in. Diameter (6.03 cm x 8.26 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, Hubert A. Arnold Collection1991.19.362.a
Shoji Hamada, whose pottery came to characterize the ceramics of the Mingei movement (Japanese Folkcrafts movement) of the 20th century, was born in Tokyo in 1894. In 1918, he met the Englishman Bernard Leach, who was in Japan studying with Soetsu Yanagi, the man credited with beginning the Mingei movement. Together with other members of the group, including Kenkichi Tomimoto and Kanjiro Kawai, they sought to establish a “criterion of beauty” grounded in the everyday art of the people.
In 1920, Hamada returned to England with Leach to help him set up his pottery at St. Ives. Their work together highlights the beliefs and goals the Arts and Crafts movement of England and America shared with those of the Mingei movement of Japan. Hamada stayed in England for three years, then returned to Japan, where he had his first one-man exhibition in 1925. In 1930, he set up his pottery in Mashiko, 100 miles north of Tokyo, where he worked until his death.
All who write about their visits to Mashiko comment on Hamada’s industriousness, his dedication to Mingei, and his warmth in entertaining the many visitors who made a pilgrimage to his pottery, especially after he was made a Living National Treasure in 1955. The brushwork on his pots incorporates designs of matted stalks of rice ruined by a downpour. The tenmoku black glaze of this finely faceted covered box is made from iron dust from a local blacksmith. It is one of the five or six glazes that he used during his time at Mashiko. Though faceted wares such as this are unusual for Hamada, examples exist throughout his oeuvre.