Essay by Glenn Adamson- A Bowl of Heaven

A Bowl of Heaven

Glenn Adamson Senior Scholar, Yale Center for British Art


It took Shin Fujihira more than forty years to make a teabowl. Not that he was working on it the whole time – in fact, he purposefully avoided this most iconic of Japanese ceramic forms, feeling that the refined cult of tea ceremony (Chanoyu) was a “wicked world,” artificial and restrictive.

He felt this way despite his family lineage, which placed him the ceramic elite of Kyoto, a city famous for its ornately decorated and refined wares. No less a personage than Kanjiro Kawai helped foster his talent, even bequeathing him his given name, Shin. And yet he rebelled, becoming an unorthodox and individualistic talent.

In Japan, of course, unorthodoxy is its own tradition. The ideal of the Chinese literati, who withdrew from court intrigue to concentrate on their own artistic visions, was adopted by such figures as Matsuo Bashō, the Edo period poet, who is considered by many to have been the greatest composer of haiku. For example:

A snowy morning—
by myself,
chewing on dried salmon.

When Fujihira did finally decide it was time to create teabowls, he achieved just this sort of elliptical, compressed style. Handbuilt rather than thrown on the wheel, each is as eccentric as the artist himself, no one contour the same as any other.

The one I have before me has a cinnabar glaze, a pink-suffused celadon somewhat reminiscent of Chinese Song Dynasty jun wares. It is made of earthen materials, and its lip travels round it irregularly, like a mountain path. Yet it also contains a cloud, a gorgeous gray smudge that runs through the glaze: a portion of heaven. Bearing the bowl’s light weight in the hands is pure, giddy pleasure; I can imagine it lifting of its own accord, rising to up the sky.

I can also imagine it filled with green froth. Fujihira may not have admired the rigorous conventions of chanoyu, but then, those conventions have themselves shifted in recent years. It’s easy to imagine a contemporary tea-lover falling in love with this bowl.

For me, nothing he ever made was more poignant than this bowl. It’s at once unpretentious and transcendent, like snow and salmon and everything else under the sheltering sky.

A Great Success! An Art of Imperfection: The Beauty of Japanese Ceramics panel at Japan House LA

Yesterday’s panel with artist Izumita Yukiya prompted a profound discussion with unique perspectives and was energized by an amazing audience full of enthusiasm for Japanese ceramics and culture. Thank you to everyone who attended and to panelists Gordon Brodfuehrer, Hollis Goodall, Yukiya Izumita, and our Ippodo NY gallery director, Shoko Aono.

If in LA, Be sure not to miss @japanhousela’s current exhibition, ‘Keshiki’ The Landscape Within: Contemporary Japanese Ceramics from the Brodfuehrer Collection, guest curated by @hollisgoodall, Curator of Japanese Art at LACMA.


Register today! Free panel and workshop at JAPAN HOUSE, LA featuring Yukiya Izumita

YUKIYA IZUMITA: Panel Discussion & Workshop

JAPAN HOUSE, Los Angeles
Hollywood & Highland Center
6801 Hollywood Boulevard, 2F and 5F
Los Angeles, CA 90028


An Art of Imperfection | The Beauty of Japanese Ceramics

JAPAN HOUSE welcomes four distinguished speakers to discuss the unique and alluring aspects of Japanese ceramics: collector Gordon Brodfueher, ceramic artist Yukiya Izumita, gallerist Shoko Aono (Ippodo Gallery), and Hollis Goodall, Curator of Japanese Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Date: May 23rd, Thursday
Time: 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Location: JAPAN HOUSE Salon (Level 5)
Fee: Complimentary


Ceramic Artist Yukiya Izumita Master Class

For his class at JAPAN HOUSE, Izumita will incorporate local clay and soil to produce a ceramic that is truly native to Los Angeles. In just one and a half hours, participants will witness the planning and creation of a vessel, with narration and explanation throughout, including his innovative use of traditional tools and techniques.

This master class is open to all, from professional ceramicists to amateurs or fans. After the class Izumita will donate the piece to JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles, where it will be displayed throughout the end of the exhibition period.

Date: May 25th, Saturday
Time: 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Location: JAPAN HOUSE Salon (Level 5)
Fee: Complimentary

“The Heart of the Matter” An Essay by Elizabeth Essner on Shin Fujihira’s cinnabar water dropper

In honor of the upcoming exhibition at Ippodo Gallery NY, “Ethereal Clay,” which pays homage to the great Shin Fujihira, Elizabeth Essner (Independent Curator, Writer, and Research) written an essay which takes a deeper look at one of his iconic cinnabar water droppers:


“The Heart of the Matter” by Elizabeth Essner

There is a water dropper, or Suichûby Shin Fujihira that so closely evokes a heart it nearly seems to beat. This heart is not the honeyed pink of Cupid’s arsenal, but in its deep-veined blush–coaxed from red cinnabar–it rises into the territory of a muscle, a working tool at the very center of aliveness.

This heart that I find in Fujihira’s work was perhaps outside the artist’s intention but, once imagined, now exists. For those of us in the West, it is in some ways a gift that little is written in English on this Japanese master of clay. While the plot points of his biography are known, the impact of his work is free from the weight of words. Instead, the eye, the hand, and indeed, the heart, can lead the way.

Accolades are not needed to know that Fujihira was a maestro—this can be seen in the universe of his forms. His material command need not be detailed in prose. It is shown in the tenderness of a budding spout or understood in the clay bodies he has pinched and smoothed to a satisfying plumpness, or sharpened just enough to become steps that lead to another place. The majesty of his cinnabar glazes are cooled by colbalt or celadon. To take it all in requires an extra breath.

It is clear Shin Fujihira was driven by a rich inner life, perhaps cultivated during his years of illness as a young man. His figures–animal and human–are captured not only in the positive space of clay, but also in their presence, which extends out into the air around them. The implied roar of an open-mouthed tiger, the fable of a windswept girl who is nearly lifted up and carried away.

But, it is Fujihira’s functional works that seem to be at the heart of his practice. The chawanand incense burners of the tea ceremony, the water droppers used to release the calligrapher’s ink all come alive in the hand.

Fujihira inherited the material legacy of Kyoto’s famed Gojozaka area wherehis family was among generations of potters who have known clay not only in their hands but in their bones. In his youth, Fujihira absorbed its depth, observing the one-ness between hand and clay of mingeimaster Kanjiro Kawai. Clearly the artist cradled these traditions, but his forms chart a path somewhere new.

To make his work Fujihira eschewed the potter’s wheel and instead used only his hands, pinching Kyoto’s clay between them. While we may never know for sure, this methodical pinching suggests a desire to reach beyond what we know and into what we feel. The tools he created are in service of their ritualsSuichû,tea bowls, incense burners–portals to release the most interior self found within the gesture of calligraphy, the bitter tang of tea.

Now the artist’s spirit has come to New York, taking his rightful place within the beating heart of the city’s boundless cultural impulses. Fujihira’s world is now known in ours.




Laura de Santillana’s solo exhibition, “Moon. From Kyoto to New York.,” is now on view at Ippodo Gallery New York

Laura de Santillana’s solo exhibition, “Moon. From Kyoto to New York.,” opened today, Thursday April 18, and will be on view through May 24! For this show, de Santillana conceived a series of small format tablets in which metal leaf is incorporated or applied to the surface, suggesting the perception of the moon in a night sky. Within strict geometric forms exist dreamy worlds of jewel tones, shimmering hues, and translucent glass in a color range of deep blues, blue greys and silvery greys.

Laura de Santillana from Shoko Aono on Vimeo.

「辻村塊 百碗展」本日より開催です


本日より「辻村塊 百碗展」が始まりました。