The celadon work by Japanese potter Hoshino Gen offers distinct pleasures. Each piece is a masterful balance of movement and stillness, and presence and emptiness, and the effect is both powerful and meditative. The feeling is perhaps closest to what one may experience in a Japanese rock garden or karesansui.
When Kathryn and I came upon an image of his work on the Internet, it had a profound impact and we began to look for an opportunity to see Hoshino-san and his ceramics in person. When I found out that he was taking part in the Tajimi Creator’s Market during my spring visit to Japan, I made a long trek to Tajimi, which is near Nagoya in the middle of Japan. Hoshino-san was warm and soft-spoken, and his work was absolutely entrancing in person. I was very excited when he later agreed to work with us.
Hoshino-san’s work expresses the beauty of slip, a watered down form of clay in its muddy state. In 2009, when he was adding the thickened slip from an old bucket to a new one, he noticed that the soft clay showed clear sharp lines and was excited by its beauty. “I became infatuated with slip and wanted to share its expression in my work”, he recalls.
It was also around that time that he decided to switch to functional ceramics instead of sculptures that he had been making for nearly a decade after graduating from Tajimi City Pottery Design and Technical Center or Ishoken. From Hoshino-san’s powerful and emotional work, it is clear that he still draws from his studies in sculpture as well as from his childhood exposure to the sculptural ceramic works of his well-known artist parents.
Hoshino-san creates work by pouring thick slip into a plaster mold. When the slip dries to the texture of mud, he uses various spatulas by hand to scoop out excess slip in swiping motions. The marks left in the slip becomes the decoration for the vessel.
“The slip shows a variety of expressions depending on the amount of water in the clay”, Hoshino-san observes. Slip is also affected by the humidity and the general condition of the plaster mold, so he adds sodium silicate or waterglass in the slip to carefully create the ideal texture. He says that the slip allows him to understand the precise relationship between clay and water, and controlling its texture is the most difficult aspect of his work.
The celadon glaze is also notoriously difficult to fire because the glaze only turns blue when there is sufficient thickness and fired to a high temperature in reduction. The thick coat of glaze can also drip or crawl easily. But the rare attraction of Hoshino-san’s work is enhanced by the choice of this glaze, which is traditionally associated with symmetric, pristine designs. The effect of combining celadon with the irregular, asymmetric design of Hoshino-san’s vessels is stunning, conjuring sand dunes or ripples in shallow flowing water.
Right now his crush on slip continues, but his fascination extends to dryer forms of clay. “I’m curious about the expressions of earth and rock”, he muses. “I create work by stopping these beautiful expressions in time by adding heat to them. I feel joy in creating objects that remind us of the grace that nature brings”.
Hoshino-san’s work is a combination of passion, mastery of various techniques, and a unique creative approach. He is active internationally and has worked as a guest artist at Tainan National University of the Arts in Taiwan and participated in art events abroad, most recently in Finland and Czech Republic. We are excited to watch how this talented potter continues his artistic journey.