In San Francisco, Potter Akio Nukaga

General / People / Products / July 14, 2014

By George Calys

In the centuries-old tradition of Japanese ceramics, potters were “born into the profession,” much like cobblers, silversmiths or leather workers in pre-industrial Europe.  But Akio Nukaya, a renowned master potter, had no artisanal pedigree; he had to earn his place throwing clay and pushing the boundaries of accepted Japanese pottery.

As part of their continuing mission to introduce artisans to the public, Heath Ceramics’ San Francisco location is featuring Nukaya’s work through August 8.  Heath has been instrumental in bringing Nukaya’s work to the United States, hosting his work several times over the last five years

Nukaya’s current work explores textures created in the clay rather than color; he has deliberately used a limited palate of neutral glazes that emphasize the surface treatment of the clay.  The handcrafted nature is evident; the pieces do not appear as “manufactured” but give the impression that each object is one of a kind.  The beauty of Nukaya’s work is in its subtlety.

Nukaya’s artistic view encompasses a world outside his studio in the famous pottery region of Mashiko.  “Visiting…looking at the people’s way of living in California,” he reflected, “has inspired and influenced my work.”  Nukaya himself doesn’t consider his work to be stand-alone objets d’art but rather pieces that only achieve completion when put to use by their owner.  No museum display ceramics here—Nukaya’s work is meant to be handled, used, filled and emptied.

The Heath showing also includes work by two other Japanese makers: woodworker Hideki Takayama and textile company Kamawanu.

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