Shoji Hamada Japanese Potter

Shoji Hamada was a Japanese potter, born in Tokyo.

Between 1913-16, studied ceramics, at the Technical College, Tokyo, under Kanjiro Kawai. Between 1916-20, he researched ceramics in Kyoto. He was particularly interested in the profound traditions of Japanese ceramics and pottery as practised by the common Japanese people for centuries.

Shoji Hamada outside his Mashiko pottery studio in 1974

A knowledgeable chemist, he became known for important experimentation, notably in ancient Korean and Chinese glazes. In 1919, he met Bernard Leach in his workshop, Abiko, and decided to accompany him back to England, beginning a 60-year association. Together they built the first English 3-chamber kiln.

An Artisan

Between 1920-23, shared a studio with Leach, St. Ives, Cornwall. In 1924, he returned to Japan and set up a studio in Mashiko, a traditional village of artisans north of Tokyo, where he specialized in simple plates. Hamada viewed himself as an artisan and felt little need to sign his work or draw attention to himself. As an artisan regarded themselves as links in a chain, as part of a tradition, and their primary aim is to continue that tradition.

Hamada used traditional enamel colours; grass-green from copper, amber from iron, and a particular cinnabar red – on glazed stoneware. He said jokingly, that enamels should be ground for three years.

Nine-sided Jar c.1940

Chawan, c1970s

In the 1910s and 1920s, developed the idea of Mingei (‘popular art’) which had been created by philosopher Soetsu Yanagi, a friend of Leach. He made simple forms, including unusual sake bottles inspired by models of Okinawa, teapots, vases and plates in the moulded or turned greyware of Mashiko. Hamada’s work was characterized by the great liberty he took with shapes and the spontaneity of his decorations. 

His work shown at 1962 ‘Gres d’aujourd’hui, d’ici et d’ailleurs’ exhibition, Chateau de Ratilly (France), and 1962 ‘Maitres potiers contemporains,’ Paris Musee des Arts Decoratifs. In 1955, he was officially appointed a living national treasure in Japan. 

Shoji Hamada Bottle Vase


10 Jun 2000, 271 – The Guardian at

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King.

Lowry, D. (2011). Moving Toward Stillness: Lessons in Daily Life from the Martial Ways of Japan. Japan: Tuttle Publishing.

Peterson, S., Peterson, J. (2003). The Craft and Art of Clay: A Complete Potter’s Handbook. United Kingdom: Laurence King.

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