5 September 2018

Visiting artists in Japan - volume 3: Shinpei Mawatari

Beautiful hibi-kohiki bowl by Shinpai Mawatari, with our harvested beens

Our final destination was Hokkaido, the North Island of Japan. 

It was in the middle of unusual typhoon approaching that made us worry about the flight, but fortunately it had eased off and we managed to visit Shinpei Mawatari and his family, in Yoichi, Hokkaido. 

I first came across with his work via Instagram feed of a well known pottery shop Utsuwa Chidori in Tokyo. Among many potters work they present, Shinpei’s original “hibi-kohiki” (“crackled” kohiki) ware stood out far from others to my eyes. Its simplicity, the warmth of its texture and tones, variety of shapes and sizes. 

To someone who loves food (both cooking and serving), it is undoubtably a pure joy to see his work. Certainly it was to me (whether I’m good at cooking or not is another matter!) and I have been thoroughly enjoying his Instagram images, which often combined with lovely food with all their homegrown vegetables.

Sinpei at his studio

The scale of their allotment is huge. The dynamic of it was rather unreal to me. An ideal life style, one might think, yet the hardship in Northern country like Hokkaido with meters of snows piled for a long winter that he shares in his feed has actually made me feel so intrigued to seek more about his potter’s life all together. 

I enjoyed seeing his fatherhood from his little girl appearing now and again, and also in his wife’s Instagram feed too. I began to communicate with them both ever since. 


Wouldn’t it be nice to visit them? I asked my husband. It’s Hokkaido. It’s a long way just to visit a day. But we felt strongly right about this. So we have send an email to him. 

His response was so so genuine, and even more so, they offered us to stay. We were worried if that is going to be too much, being too rude. After all, it was the first time we’d meet. But we really liked Shinpei’s response saying that “I would like to follow my instinct. I believe that good will come.” How lovely is that! We of course loved his answer so went ahead to follow our gut feeling too.


Shinpei and his wife kindly came to pick us up from Otaru station. On route to their home, we saw many mountains as well as coast lines. I was rather surprised to see so many mountains as I always imagined the flat fields in Hokkaido. With such beautiful sights passing by, we headed to his house, surrounded by a huge land he owns with his allotment and his studio within.

Shipei harvesting fresh vegetables form their huge allotment 

Shinpei grew up in Hokkaido. He is slightly younger than me, but he has fifteen years of career as a professional potter. He recalls the beginning of his potter’s life, some struggles and changes he made. Having mentioned about how scary for me to have gone full time, he tells me that he would have been the same if he took a long journey till late. He was young and naive, just went for it without knowing much, he says gently. 

What he creates today is truly beautiful with his established experience, and yet doesn’t have 'snobby' 'sharp' look or any sorts, but the gentleness to welcome people who hold his tableware. 


His unique kohiki style has yellow ochre like tones and crackled surface texture, which I love. Each piece are slightly different depending on firing, which makes more exciting for us to choose own favourite. 

He also creates white version of these, as well as some hakeme (brush decorated slip) and ash glazed pieces, which he uses the resources from a local orchard. At outside his studio, there are natural spring water running that fills numbers of buckets to filter the ashes. 

spring water supply used for washing ashes
Shinpei’s ash glazed ware

The evening we stayed was so heartwarming. His wife served us a wonderful feast on his tableware, with all the vegetables freshly harvested by Shinpei that day. Even my daughter who can be a quite fussy on eating, did enjoyed freshly picked tomatoes, which were so so sweet. 

Selections of beautiful tableware at their home

Personally I was also very fond of his wife’s style in the kitchen, from the selection of items to how she stores and displays them. She used to run a food related shop, so no wonder she has a good taste.

Sabrina enjoys freshly picked tomato

Another wonderful aspect of this visit was that Sabrina got to play with their daughter, who is happened to be the same age. She absolutely loved the company, enjoyed the every minutes of it, laughing and giggling, and at some point, they were totally hysterical! It was so lovely to see them two together and has certainly made our trip extra special.

Thank you so much Shinpei's family for your hospitality and such a wonderful memory. 

Shinpei’s Instagram can be viewed here.

31 August 2018

Visiting artists in Japan - volume 2: Tamotsu Suzuki

beautiful vessel made by Tamotsu Suzuki

Back in UK, slowly recovering from a jet lag as I write this blog post. Time does go so quickly when you are having a good time, indeed. I always feel that the holiday can become extra special when you meet “people”on the land, rather than just sightseeing or laying on a beach, as it can enrich your experience and create memory. It has certainly did for us and visiting a family of Tamotsu Suzuki was one of such lovely memories.


I have been admiring his work for nearly two years ever since I have started Instagram. His expression of clay work and the details of nature around him on his Instagram feed must have been aspired so many viewers, not to mention myself of course, and I have been wishing to visit his studio one day. That day, did come true fairly quickly in a best possible way. 

Instagram community in UK (or all English speaking basis, should I say) has been somewhat life changing experience. Connection you can make with like-minded people is not just comforting but encouraging in a real life. 

Luckily the same has happened to me by using my native Japanese language and the result was quite significant. When I asked about visiting his studio in Kobuchizawa in the middle of beautiful mountain side, he kindly offered us to stay over night with them.


To be honest, we hesitated at first. We felt it would be too much, especially with a little one too, thought we would be too imposing. Plus, he is an experienced potter, unlike myself. Wouldn’t it be rude in Japan? After all, we are strangers other than our occasional comments on Instagram.

Then again, I also felt that it would be a great opportunity to get to know each other better, see their life and culture, which would also benefit to my daughter and husband. After some discussion with my husband, we have decided to trust our gut feeling and my instinct about him from our conversation. 


It’s funny when you worry something like this, often the others feel the same. Tamotsu later said the same. But we quickly felt it was the right decision and found our comfort in his family home.

Tamotsu in his own studio

In fact, our daughter Sabrina has instantly made a bond with his daughter, who’s a little older than her. Quietly but comfortably played together, to the point that she did not even want to come to visit his studio with us as she wanted to carry on playing with her, which was very unusual to her! Actually it was so sweet to see these two girls in their own world, and with that bonus, we have managed to explore Tamotsu’s studio and get his insight for some time without any distraction! Ha!


He hand builds each piece and finishes with slip in Japanese “kohiki” style, which mostly leaves matt surface texture. Every details are taken cared of, such as rims, which I particularly adore. Glaze colours he uses are often mono tone and they give somehow rustic yet modern style on your table.


He also makes sculptural pieces inspired by plants. I could spot them here and there in his house and studio, totally naturally, as if they are gently breathing and inhabiting. 

The view from his studio was magnificent. Clean air, sound of spring water. Everything was meant to be there to inspire you and balance your life. 

a stunning view from his studio even on a cloudy day

Hospitality from his family was genuine and at the same time so natural. We had a short trip to a local onsen (public bath with a hot spring), made gyoza (Japanese dumplings) as a part of the lovely dinner that night and played hanabi (fire work - one of ‘must do’ during summer in Japan) in the evening. Many of these were first experience for Sabrina and she absolutely loved every minute of it. Tamotsu’s down-to-earth, honest and open character made us feel at ease. There were laughters and smiles. Conversation lasted till late evening.

his guest room welcoming us with calmness
his daughter’s ‘teeny’ origami creations! 

Thank you so much for having us Tamotsu and his family. It was wonderful to have spent time together. We shall definitely treasure our memory as much as his pottery we happily brought home with us. 

Tamotsu’s webiste, click here

Tamotsu’s instagram, click here

19 August 2018

Visiting artist in Japan - volume 1: chokkin kirie YUYA

delightfully beautiful work by YUYA

Hello everyone. 

Currently on family holiday in Japan and it’s already into the second week. We have been spending a lovely time with family and friends, which were much longed for. Our daughter Sabrina is in a great shape, having so much laughters and smiles, as well as suddenly expanding her Japanese conversations, which is a bonus. 

During our stay, we have planned to visit several artists in Japan, who I admire and longed to visit for some times. I would like to share the story on my blog in the coming weeks.

Today I would like to share our first visit to YUYA, a paper cut artist and product designer / illustrator and his wife Keiko, as known as Sparrow Kei on her instagram, who runs bakery classes at their home studio, Atetlier FOLK in Tokyo. 


It’s going back nearly a decade that I first saw his work via his blog. There were no instagram in those days, but I certainly got hooked onto his design, which is somewhat modern and friendly folk that really eases your eyes and makes you smile. I also love the fact that he uses a pair of scissors to cut paper, which I think leaves more personality and handmade touch.


Both YUYA and Keiko have always been friendly and open to the conversation over blog and instagram today, that I felt like it was not the first time to actually meet, very relaxing. Well, except having five year old daughter around, which is not always easy to visit someone new, but they wholeheartedly welcomed us. We enjoyed homemade cake by Keiko with all the detailed touch on how she served us, which are just so lovely. 


Their home is filled with much loved collection of treasure from pottery and folk art, to books and music, and has been featured in many magazines and TV program. They kept saying and rather warningly, it’s a very small space, but I could not hide my excitement to see their house. And I have to say there were no warning needed. It totally blown my expectation. I LOVED it. You cannot stop smiling each step, each corner of their home. YUYA kindly allowed me to share some images here, so hope you enjoy them too. 


We have chosen one of his paper cut arts to bring back to our home. (as you can see on the top) We shall certainly treasure it and remember such a lovely time we spent together. Thank you so much YUYA san and Keiko san. 

You can view more of Aterlier FOLK, here.

11 August 2018

POTFEST in the Pens


Hi everyone. 

We have just arrived in the middle of summer heat in Japan and I am already super excited for coming weeks to catch up with my family, friends and visit a few artist who I longed to meet. I am sure I will be writing about our travel later on, but for now here is a brief catch up from the show last weekend at POTFEST in the Pens


Firstly, thank you so so much for those who visited the show, popped by my stand to say hi and purchased my work. I have received so many positive feedback and many of my work have found new homes. Your support make it possible for me to do what I love doing and for that I am truly thankful.


POTFEST was 25th anniversary this year, after all the wonderful history of this show run by Geoff and Chris Cox. My late mentor David’s favourite show it was (you can see the post here) and I have visited for many many years. 

This was my second time to attend this show as an exhibitor and my last one was before Sabrina was born, so it was a big come back after some years! (You can view it here)
It was great to be back at the show and see some familiar faces. 


We were camping with my family and also visited to see our friends in Kendal one night, which was such a treat, too. (This beautiful image is when we were coming down to the valley to Kendal) 


Just to note that a white tarpaulin behind my stand is provided by Pens, which could not be taken down. However, I had a lovely spot beaming natural light, so overall it was a lucky space to display my work. 

Hope you enjoyed some images here from my stand. Thank you for visiting my blog as always. 

maki xx

27 June 2018

Earth and Fire


Long time no blog (again!) 

It’s been super busy over here and continue to be. But before moving on to the next show prep, I would like to share some images from Earth and Fire, an international ceramic fair held at the Harley Gallery, Welbeck, last weekend. 

Original Earth and Fire used to be held at Rufford for many years, to which I always enjoyed visiting. This was their second year to be held at this new venue and this time I was at the other side of the show, an exhibitor! 

Having been a big fan of this show, you can imagine how delighted I was when I was selected among over 100 established potters in UK and beyond.


Thank you so much for those who popped by my stand and purchased work. Your support means the world to me and helps me do what I love, so really appreciate. I had a lovely couple who have purchased a whole dinner set! I was totally blown away! 

flowers from my garden and some foraged in the field
popular 'rakugaki' mugs flown to many happy homes
it was a scorcher! 
As always, I have learnt a lot by observing other’s stand and listening to their experience and advice. Always learning something, from display idea and setting price to variation of work and wrapping mechanism. Even camping tips! Event like this is a great opportunity to speak to fellow potters for that reasons. But most of all, meeting them and talking endlessly about life is the best bit of the show. Potter’s community is such a wonderful thing. I am so happy that I am now part of it.  

m x