Hamada Shoji Vase

This exquisite vase was made by Hamada Shoji, a potter/artisan in the village of Mashiko, who was one of the first such craftsmen to be awarded the title of National Living Treasure. Most Japanese craftsmen never signed the piece that they produced, but with high quality crafts a Paulownia box was made for the piece, and the box was then signed by the artist, or even a family member, to certify that it was indeed a work done by a particular craftsman.

This Paulownia Box was signed by Shinsaku Hamada, Shoji’s son who is carrying on the family tradition of making pottery in Mashiko.

Mashiko Ware is a traditional pottery that was established in the town of Mashiko, in Tochigi Prefecture, over 150 years ago. The ceramics produced here were simple household articles meant to be used on a daily basis. Mashiko pottery became famous when Hamada Shoji settled there and eventually became known as Japan’s most famous potter, and first National Living Treasure. Mashiko ware is known for its folk art essence, called “Mingei”, which literally means “craft of the people”. This became a national movement when noted artists such as Hamada, Soetsu Yanagi, and Kawai Kanjiro became concerned with preserving the traditional art of rustic beauty in everyday objects. A piece of Mingei folk art was well made, and strong enough to survive a lifetime of use. Yet Mingei pieces were often astoundingly beautiful in their grace and simplicity, while also possessing great humbleness. They were hardly ever signed by the artist. The best of traditional Mashiko ceramics evokes this grace and beauty, which has made it a favorite pottery throughout Japan.