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Ken Matsuzaki

Ken Matsuzaki is one of the most important potters in Japan.  He was born in 1950 in Tokyo and graduated from the Fine Arts Ceramic Department at Tamagawa University in 1972.  That same year he began his five year apprenticeship with Tatsuzo Shimaoka.  Shimoaka is Mashiko’s current Loving National Treasure: he was in his turn taught by the great Japanese potter Shoji Hamada, who was the fist Mingei Living National Treasure, and who was responsible for putting the small town of Mashiko on the world ceramics map.  Ken Matsuzaki established his own kiln, Yu-Shin (Playful Spiri ) in 1978 at Mashiko and has since exhibited his work  throughout the world.

Having fist created superb work in the Mingei style, he was driven to seek greater freedom of expression.  He aimed to evoke the expressive freshness of Shino, Oribe and Yakishime, from the early Momoyama period (16th Century), styles closely associated with the tea ceremony.  Ken Matsuzaki’s ash-glazed wares are very special.  He uses matsu (pine) and kuri (chestnut) ash on most of the works and they fire to a pleasingly broad range of colours.  He has developed an individual oeuvre that includes hakeme (brush mark slip), gosu (cobalt blue), zogan (inlaid ware), overglaze porcelains, and Yakishime (high fired unglazed wood fired wares).  He continues with some of these styles, particularly his intense bespoke wood fired kiln using pine and chestnut for fuel, and also in his delightful Shino and Oribe wares.  He calls his Yakishime wares haikaburiyohen, with with hailaburi referring to the build up of ash on the pieces and yohen pointing to the natural changes that occur in the kiln.  Recently Matsuzaki has put most of his energy into the haikaburi yohen pieces.  He fires his wood burning kiln only twice a year and it’s a fervid process that lasts a full six days: working twenty four hours around the clock.  The first three days Matsuzaki stokes the kiln with two thousand bundles of pine and chestnut and the last three days with pine charcoal.  It’s a very labour intensive process but the rewards are splendid pieces with layers of haikaburi which dazzles the senses.