Hamada, Shoji [浜田庄司] (1894–1978) By Ajioka, Chiaki
Hamada Shoji was a modern Japanese ceramic artist who adopted the medium consciously as artistic expression, taking inspiration from folk traditions, particularly Okinawan pottery and British slipware. His career began in 1920s Britain where he accompanied the British potter Bernard Leach (1885–1979) to help establish a pottery workshop at St Ives, Cornwall. After returning to Japan, Hamada settled in Mashiko, a small village north of Tokyo, with its own folk pottery tradition. Leach and Hamada became icons of early studio pottery in the post-World War II Western world and their work is known collectively as “Anglo-Japanese style” or the “Leach-Hamada tradition.” In Japan, Hamada’s work is associated with the Mingei folk art movement. His stoneware depicts an earthy naturalness and dynamism underpinned by technical mastery and refined taste. Leach described Hamada as the ideal studio potter in whom the head, hand, and heart were perfectly balanced. This echoed Hamada’s own words: “With the risk of exaggeration, I occasionally hear this voice in my work: leave the shape to the wheel, leave the drawing to the brush, leave the firing to the kiln.” His Zen-like attitude is reflected in his works, which appear to embody the Mingei ideal in the modern world.