[Clayart] design, cultural misunderstanding/story

mel jacobson melpots at mail.com
Sun Sep 12 20:03:48 UTC 2021

Kunio Uchida was not ever a potter. He was a design master that
graduated no 1 in his class at the Tokyo School of design. mid 30's.He was 
hidden away during the war2.  He
had a sponsor for his entire career. She paid for everything
and got a nice percentage return on her money as his fame grew.
(he took me to meet her just once.)

He hired the finest hand craftsmen he could find.  His crew was
very well paid to make his designs of vessels.

Mr. Uchida controlled the glazes and the firing.

Mr. Hamada was thought of as a potter here in the U.S. He too was a 
designer and a PH.D chemist. He only made pots for pictures and film.
Susan Peterson made him into an Icon/Zen etc. Not really true. He told me
face to face..."Big PR".

He controlled all the glazes and firing.  He had a Korean woman that
illustrated his pots. They made pots in the thousands per year.  Bernard Leech
did not sit around on a potter's wheel. He too had a very wealthy sponsor in London.
Many believe he made no money in the pottery in St. Ives.

Mr. Uchida stressed with me the importance of drawing images on paper that would become
a standard design in my studio. I drew at home for one hour every evening before bed.
He looked at all my drawings every day. The boys in the back room taught me to make
pots.  A Master Designer and the best of Craftsmen, all in one place. Yes, I was blessed.

Uchida worked on a drawing board for about two hours a day. Often he would bring out his
favorite drawing...red crayon outlining his favorite drawing. Mr. Imahori would make the pot
from the drawing....about 5 of them. I too had to make pots from his drawing. He would look
at the pot and usually say. "Bakadami"  or, pug the clay.

Often Uchida was pressed into action because of a huge order, let us say 1000 flower
arrangement pots.  He narrowed it down quickly and we started throwing like mad.
we made things to exact specs.  It was business.

Mr. Uchida often told me to look at the best of the Ming Celedons. He felt they were the
best pots ever made.  He did not hold much stock in Korean farmer pots, as he called them.
He would have been very proud of my trip to China doing old hare's fur and seeing the best
of the Ming.  It is hard to describe holding a perfect, wood fired cone 12 Ming Vase. Not
a flaw.  Sagger fired.

Uchida's mentor in school studied at the Bauhaus.  Here are the principles: 
    No border between artist and craftsman. ...
    The artist is an exalted craftsman. ...
    «Form follows function». ...
    Gesamtkunstwerk or the 'complete work of art'. ...
    True materials. ...
    Minimalism. ...
    Emphasis on technology. ...
    Smart use of resources.
That is what I studied most in Kyoto.  Yes, Nordic design from a Japanese Master.

What was beaten into my head was the word "Form".  No glaze or color can hide
bad form.  Form is the heartbeat of making pots.  If you work alone you must be
a very harsh critic of your work. It helps to use paper and pencil to start. Some
potters work on the wheel as a design technique.  But, because you threw it, does
not make a good design. 

And as I was told, over and over...adding grids, or a thousand small flowers will
never make a bad form any better. If your form is perfect all you need is pure
white glaze. And, about 80 percent of all made pots in our studio .."Pure White". 

And as to Paul's question..."Must you give away your ideas or recipes?"...The answer
is still "NO".  If you hold it dear, keep it.  Others will just try to write books
and make money from your idea.  Ron and John taught us how to make our own secrets.
They never allowed others to re/publish their work.  As it should be. It is called

I have given away freely many of my original glazes including black shino.  But, as I say..
"they never get my clay, my kiln, my timing or techniques.  And that is what makes one
unique.  The `entire package`.
PS, Kunio Uchida was the first known designer to use an ear syringe as a design tool, and
he developed the use of brown and white clay mixed and thrown in one pot...it is called
neriage.  He held design patents on both items in Japan.

website: www.melpots.com

More information about the Clayart mailing list