Visiting the workshop in Okinawa
We take a look behind the scenes at Issui Pottery
Discovering its unique, contemporary designs
We recently took a trip to Okinawa to delve into the world of “Yachimun”, a type of pottery with a distinctive, simple, and sturdy form with bold and colorful glazes.
Following our visit to Tousingama we took a trip to Issui Pottery, another ceramics studio located in Yomitan village which is home to many artisans who produce Okinawan Yachimun.
We spoke to the owner Shinya Takahata, who shared his story and approach to pottery-making.
Unconventional, free-form vessels
Compared to many other Yachimun vessels, Issui Pottery’s ceramics are characterized by their vivid colors and contemporary design. A lot of Japanese ceramics are traditionally made with a specific purpose in mind, certain shapes and sizes for certain foods and beverages. Takahata’s vessels are multi-purpose, having established a unique style that actively incorporates modern materials and techniques while using traditional methods which form the foundation of his work.
Issui Pottery’s dishes are playful yet beautiful, and instantly brighten the dining table with just one or two dishes.
How it started
Issui Pottery is a small ceramics studio, just a stone’s throw away from the beach. The owner, Takahata, is what you may describe as a free spirit; after quitting his corporate job he traveled through Thailand and India, stopping off in Okinawa on his way home, where he felt a similar relaxed pace of life he experienced in Southeast Asia.
He relocated to Okinawa in 2002.
Takahata never went to art college or had any experience making ceramics. He decided to start from scratch and studied under Toshio Kaneshiro, who is the eldest son of Jiro Kaneshiro, a living national treasure of Ryukyu ceramics. Under Toshio’s guidance, he learned the basics of ceramics and the traditional techniques of Yachimun.
In 2005, Takahata opened Issui Pottery with his beloved cat.
Crafting with no boundaries
Takahata draws inspiration for his designs from commonplace, everyday situations, like the background scenes from TV or the clothing worn by a character in a movie.
Once an image is formed in his mind, he sketches it out before applying it to his ceramics. Takahata does not work to specific themes, instead creating whatever comes to mind.
In other words, he crafts freely, to create is an expression of his freedom. The excitement and joy of producing something better than anticipated, unveiled when he unloads the kiln, is what inspires him to keep producing new and varied designs.
A vocation as a potter
For Takahata, producing ceramics is not only a job. It is much deeper than that; it is an ancient craft that involves working with earth and fire and a form of expression, for him, and for his customers.
He says, “I want to keep producing works that subvert assumptions in a positive way. To do this, I think it is important to be deeply moved by things, in order to inject that feeling into my work.”
Humble and thoughtful, Issui Pottery continues to produce one-of-a-kind pieces with the hope of adding color to people’s lives.