松崎健 -民芸の里・益子から窯変へ-

There are numerous distinctive types of yakishime (high-fired unglazed ceramics), different areas using different techniques-the glass-like bīdoro of Iga, the scarlet of Shigaraki, the yellow goma of Bizen, the akadobe red slip of Tamba, etc.-amd searching for my own method, I finally arrived at a technique that uses 3,000 bundles of wood and 50 bags of charcoal to fire the kiln for 8 days. In descending order of importance, the various factors in creating pottery are said to be: 1. the firing, 2. the clay and 3. the shaping, but when using an anagama kiln, the firing is everything. To develop my own style of firing, to be able to express myself through the clay, required the experience gained from numerous firings. The final result became my own style. Regarding the clay, I think that the unrefined clay is most important and its positioning within the kiln will also create further differences in its appearance. I enjoy searching for the best places to place the works. When creating the pots, I always concentrate on the shapes that the clay wants to form. It is important to understand the character of the clay. The fruits of my fifty-year career as a potter can be seen in my yōhen haikatsugi (natural ash glaze) and yōhen shino.


Ken Matsuzaki




Half a century has passed since Ken Matsuzaki first decided to become a potter. After graduating from university he studied under Tatsuzō Shimaoka and during his five years as an apprentice he learned not only technique but also many other things, including, ‘how to think about pottery, the correct stance to take when creating a work and the importance of philosophy’.
Fifteen years after he began work as an independent potter, his style underwent a major change. He turned away from everything he had done prior to that folk art, for which the town of Mashiko is so famous, and his own original works in order to focus oribe ware. Speaking of his attraction to oribe, he said: ‘It is not the glaze itself so much as the style and ideology behind oribe.’ In saying this he was not referring to the superficial shape or design of the work, rather he was drawn to its essence, to the philosophy it sprang from. This attitude towards pottery is something that he learned from his mentor, Tatsuzō Shimaoka. After this change, form and the unforeseen changes in color that occur during the firing, (known as yōhen in Japanese), came together to form unique styles to which he gave the names, ‘yōhen haikaburi’, ‘yōhen shino’, ‘yōhen soda’, ‘gold shino’, and ‘Iron shino’.
The most important factors when aiming to create the beauty of yōhen are the clay and the firing. Bold forms and powerful traces of the wheel both result from the clay. However, when working, he ‘concentrates on creating the shapes that the clay wants to form’. Even when using the same clay, the position of the works in the kiln and the way in which they are fired will effect their appearance. Matsuzaki developed his own technique to produce yōhen, employing three thousand bundles of wood and fifty bags of charcoal, firing the kiln for a period of eight days. He says that he enjoys looking for the ideal spots within the kiln to place his works. ‘Yōhen is springs from the limits of the clay, a dialogue with the kiln and a joint performance with the fire. I search for some invisible factor whenever I fire my kiln.’ From this, we can catch a glimpse of the earnest attitude of the potter, Ken Matsuzaki, as he continues to strive for the true essence of his art.


Koichi Mori
Art critic, executive director of the Japan Ceramics Society