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Matsuda Yoneshi

Yoneshi works on the Japanese island of Okinawa, an island steeped in pottery traditions. Geographically isolated from Japan, Okinawa developed a style and tradition of its own, which Yoneshi follows with passionate zeal. At an early age he was served dinner at a friend’s house on traditional old Okinawan pottery, and was struck by the beautiful simplicity of the pottery, together with the wonders of the country food. It formed in him an ambition to make such pottery, an ambition he has so successfully mastered.

The strength of Okinawan pottery lies in its simple country roots and its resistance to mechanisation and fads of individualistic fashion. In modern times its credentials were given a boost by the visits of the internationally famous potters; Shoji Hamada, Kawai, Bernard Leach, and their friend and philosopher Soetsu Yanagi. They were impressed by the spirit of Mingei (folk art), in an increasingly decadent world of Traditional Ceramics. “Tradition” says Yanagi “is the accumulation and crystallisation of wisdom and experience of countless ancestors”.

To say that Yoneshi follows this philosophy with zeal is an understatement. At his Kitagama workshop; which he shares with three other potters and various apprentices, he has built a vast thirteen chamber climbing kiln, the largest in Okinawa, which they fire four times a year. All of his clay and glaze materials are dug from the land, they buy no materials commercially. Typically the traditional green glaze is made from the wood ash of the Malayan Banyan tree, and Manganese comes from the tarmac of an ex military airfield. The results of using these unrefined materials are of pots that are truly born from the Okinawan soil, and uniquely localised.