• Short Summary

    One of the world's greatest potters -- Shoji Hamada of Japan -- has died at the age of 83.

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    One of the world's greatest potters -- Shoji Hamada of Japan -- has died at the age of 83. The Japanese government had honoured him as "a living national treasure". He died on 5 January (Thursday) at his home in Mashiko Town, 80 kilometres north of Tokyo.

    SYNOPSIS: Through his influence, Mashiko has become an important centre for wheel-thrown pottery. There, he set up his kiln and worked for more than half a century, having turned down a professorship in Tokyo.

    He founded the so-called Mingei folk art movement and called for a return from artificiality to natural and simple means of expression in the arts.

    There are two strands in the great tradition of Japanese ceramics -- refinement and elegance, deriving from Chinese models, and an earthy yet powerful tradition of peasant ware, often derived from Korean models.

    Hamada elected to work mainly in the latter tradition, much admired by Japanese connoisseurs but only recently appreciated in the outside world. Yet the asymmetrical refinement of his decorations shows a spiritual affinity with more courtly ceramics. It is a synthesis of both traditions and has been enormously influential in Japan and all over the world.

    Hamada was born in Tokyo in 1894 and had four sons and two daughters. He was educated at Tokyo Technical College and Kyoto Ceramic Experimental Institute. As a young man, he went British potter Bernard Leach. In 1920, he went to England to work with Leach and founded the famous pottery at St. Ives in Cornwall. News of Hamada's death reached Leach on his 91st birthday. He described Hamada as his "perfect friend" for 60 years and said his death was a great loss to the world of art.

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