Hidemi Kataoka / Shuuhou / Shuho picking out his latest batch from the small gas kiln.
Both me and Hidemi is some of a sweet tooth so twice a day we sit down to have coffee and a sweet japanese cake between working hours and talk pots. Often it comes to sign language and sound effects due to the language barrier, but thanks to Hidemis stubbornes the dictionary comes out of his pocket constantly to search for a word, and he never gives up on a conversation, even though it's often complicated technical processes we're try to talk about. At the age of 18, he began studying economics at the university. His plan was to become a teacher and not follow his ancestors' profession as a bonsai potter. But the love of the ceramics was too big. When he finally decided to take over his fathers studio, it was the attraction to work with the throwing wheel and the glazes that he wanted to immerse himself in.
This is how I found Hidemi most of the mornings when I arrived to the studio. Working at the throwing wheel, going large.
Hidemi is today the fifth-generation bonsai potter. It makes the Kataoka family one of the few that have produced bonsai pots for over 150 years. He has been awarded a certified "traditional craftsman" . And he is also a master of Ikebana classical style and has written several books on the subject. Unlike most of the potters I have visited in Tokoname, Hidemis workshop is more of an artists, where you find tools and materials surrounding the entire massive three-story building. Once there used to be 7 people working here, when the ”golden days” for bonsai ended, only Hidemi and his mother and father were remained. Today, it's just Hidemi. Hidemi is also known as Shuuhou, the same as his father, and his grandfather who built the Yoshimura Shuuhou kiln. Its tradition among Tokoname potters to go under the same name as the kiln since they dont market themselves as artists, more as a brand that carry on a tradition that every generation builds up on.
The anonymous entrance to the Yoshimura Shuuhou kiln where all clay has been carried in and all thousands of pots been carried out for three generations of Shuuhou. Hidemi San today is beeing maybe the last.
That Hidemi invited me to work with him says a lot about him as a person. He is curious and generous by nature and strongly beleive in receiving by giving. He wanted to see how I would tackle this opportunity and also learning from the process and hoping that it would bring new ideas, a fusion between east and west. And I think that’s what separates Hidemi from most other Tokoname potters. He is brave enough to go against tradition and open his studio to another potter, he is eager enough to want to learn more. And he is a strong participant in the mission to save, and contribute to the art. But also, with the inheritance of his ancestors, his natural role as a leader and his great ability to teach is what I think Hidemi Kataoka also will bring to the future. He is a natural bridge because he has the knowledge and history we lack in the West, and he wants to learn and interfere with the international bonsai scene with his work. And I hope with my body and soul that there will be a sixth generation, a Shuuhou the fourth.
Hidemi laughing shows me how to use the old traditional bambu tools for making the feets. He is an excellent teacher that sees everything and has only one answer to all difficult or impossible ideas - Challenge!
The three store big building is full of pots. Some of them are sitting on shelves where once Hidemis forfathers left them, some of them, like this, is waiting to be glazed and fired.
Three friends, three heirs, three colleagues and three competitors who have an exhibition together. From left to right: Juko, Eimei and Hidemi.
Some of Hidemi´s pots at the exhibition at Ceramall in november.
Thank you for opening up your studio and sharing Hidemi, and thank you who have read this for your interrest and passion for this ancient art.
Below are some links to follow if you want to see more of Hidemis work.