Shōji Hamada, “Bowl,” ca. 1952. Glazed stoneware. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Betty Kuhn.
Shōji Hamada (b. 1894 Tokyo, Japan – d. 1978 Mashiko, Japan)
Japanese potter Shōji Hamada played a pivotal role in the establishment of the mingei (folk-art) movement, a concept developed by philosopher and aesthete Yanagi Sōetsu. Hamada first studied ceramics in Tokyo where he encountered the work of Bernard Leach. Leach, an English-born potter who taught and exhibited internationally, invited Hamada to join him in England to continue his studies in ceramics. This mentorship was a driving force in Hamada’s work. The two would lecture together over the coming decades, including an influential session at Black Mountain College in 1952 where they taught alongside Sōetsu and Bauhaus potter Marguerite Wildenhain. Hamada would return to Japan and establish himself in the town of Mashiko. Hamada used only locally sourced materials, including clay bodies, minerals and oxides for glazing, and handcrafted brushes. His dedication to folk-art and his contributions to the world of ceramics earned him the title of “National Living Treasure” by the Japanese Minister of Culture in 1953.