Why I use ceramics as a medium
The medium I use to express myself artistically is ceramics. When people come across the word ceramics, they tend to think of food vessels, the Eastern world, or ancient earthenware pottery. Although my ceramics do not take the form of ordinary bowls or other vessels, there is a reason why I have chosen ceramics as my medium of expression: It is inevitable for me to express my thoughts through ceramics.
Throughout history potters and ceramic artists have focused on how well and unique the outside surfaces of vessels are. I, on the other hand, make it a point to change the perspective and focus more on the inside, which is not readily visible, instead of focusing on the outside surfaces of vessels.
There are several theories of the origin of ceramics, but in general it is said that the origin goes back more than 20,000 years. Ceramic vessels were created when humans started using fire. Humans, unlike other animals, started to cook. They used fire and they cooked meat. In order to prevent fire going out due to wind, humans created earthen ovens. Once they fired the ovens they realized that when they poured water on them, the soils of which they were composed had changed into a different material. Humans made use of this transformation and started to create simple vessels. The art of ceramics has begun.
In general when people see ceramic vessels, they think of shapes formed from clay. But the inner space of the vessels (the space used for cooking and placing food,) is what constitutes the essence of ceramics. Because of this, the actual body of a ceramic vessel itself would be the inner space. This focus on the inner space led me to create somewhat uniquely shaped works. All of my works have different shapes, but all of them are made with the intention of creating the inner space of a ceramic vessel (container). My intention is not to shape the inner space with clay, but to create a boundary between the inner space and the outer space. This holds true even for the ceramic vessels that are made with focus on the outer spaces. However when I focus on these “outer spaces”, I sometimes do so without making a conscious effort to create a boundary.
Creating boundaries is something that humans have been doing since ancient times. After humans started using language, in order to deal with objects, movements, and the atmosphere around them, they created boundaries where there had formerly been none. Also, they found it practical to demarcate certain things (such as a mountain) in order to separate them from a continuum of which they were a part. A pen on a table looks as if it is one object, but after we take it apart, even though it is the same object, we do not call it a pen anymore. The verb “to walk,” cannot exist by itself without a subject, such as “we”. Therefore, it can be said that there is no clear boundary between anything. When we use a word, we are creating a boundary. The word “Art ” also has the meaning of “man-made”. I think that humans are the only beings to create art – and the action of creating boundaries is one of the most humanlike behaviors.
So, why ceramics? I have talked about the inner space and the outer space of ceramic vessels, but there are various materials such as metal, wood, and plastic, being used for making containers every day. To make the space of a container itself, various kinds of materials will work.
The use of ceramics has widely broadened in today’s world. Ceramics is used not only as a material for making foodware, but also as a material for varieties of sculpture, wall decorating tiles, non-rusting knives, and false teeth. Ceramics is now a legitimate scientific discipline whose applications to our lives plays an important role in contributing to utility, convenience, and pleasure.
On the other hand, I feel that the progress of ceramics in the field of art is not as notable as in other fields. In the world of modern ceramics, sculptural works and installations have been created in order to include more than merely making pots and plates. Unfortunately, the reasons for using ceramics as a medium for such works has been left vague, because there is no guarantee that the material being used has to be ceramics. A work is considered to be “new ceramics”, only by creating something unusual and unique – which to me looks like a cast-off skin without any theory. No matter what kind of style a work is, I think the requirement for ceramics work is that the material being used has to be ceramics in order to express what the artist wants to express. Therefore, I would like to explain why it is inevitable for me to create ceramics works.
First, ceramics is suitable to express my belief of “Humans living in harmony with nature”. My work is the result of combining two parts together. “My shaping of the clay” and “a phenomenon created by the material.” Japanese perceive nature as something that humans have been living together with since ancient times. This concept of “live in harmony with nature” has had a huge impact on the way I live my life as well.
I somehow feel nostalgic when I look at the phenomenon that clay creates. It makes me feel as if I am in various places on Earth such as, in a mountain, in the sea, and in the desert. The coolness of the clay to my touch makes me feel as if I am touching the ground. I see beauty in every expression of ceramics just as I see beauty in forests and rivers. I feel this way because ceramics can be seen as a reappearance of the volcanic activity and other activities that Earth has been continuing to display. Even today, most of the materials used in ceramics derive from natural minerals, with the materials being mixed together and fired at high temperature to create stonelike materials. Artists leave the final result of their work up to the natural phenomena that have been taking place since before life appeared on Earth.
Another reason I choose ceramics as a medium is the unique characteristics of ceramics. They incorporate the beauty of the material, and of natural phenomena. There is a unique concept of “leaving the results up to nature and the material” when practicing ceramics. This way of thinking does not apply to the actions of people trying to control everything, but rather honors our will while allowing the material’s characteristics to show themselves.
For example, clay cracks, so it is not necessary to prevent the clay from cracking. We can find beauty in the natural cracks that the material has produced. Clay is coarse and it is not necessary to make it smooth. We can feel fond of that coarseness. When attaching clay together there will be a line and some marks form the hands. But again, it is not necessary to erase all those marks, but instead to find beauty in them.
Because of the nature of ceramics, once the piece has been fired, the artist cannot manipulate the piece or bring it back to the clay stage. It is not the same as adding more to your drawing or melting a metal and redoing the process. In ceramics, the artist must relay on fire in order to produce a complete work. Because of this, a work carries a beauty different from something that is entirely manmade.
As mentioned above, using ceramics as a medium, I am able to express the humanity of creating boundaries, as well as the humanity of living in harmony with nature. Ceramics and I are inseparable, just like the example of “we” and the “action of walking” cannot exist by themselves.