Japanese Potter Keiji Tanaka

A Visit to Shiga based Potter Keiji Tanaka's Studio

About Keiji Tanaka

Studied under the highly regarded ceramic artists Shigeyoshi and Yuriko Morioka. Now lives and works in Shiga Prefecture where Keiji specialises in producing contemporary-looking forms with a rustic, wabi-sabi edge. All pieces are made on a kick wheel at his studio a short walk from his home.

Tanaka’s ceramics are fired in a week long wood-firing, producing deep reds and oranges on the side of his pots that look natural and aesthetically pleasing on the eye.

Photography: Mark Robinson

Introduction

On a sunny day in Spring I took a trip out to the rural town of Hino located in Shiga Prefecture. Here resides Japanese potter Keiji Tanaka originally from Kyoto Prefeture. Keiji’s professional career in ceramics started as an apprentice under Shigeyoshi and Yuriko Morioka who work from their studio in the middle of the mountains on the Kii Peninsula, south of Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. Shigeyoshi uses the simple textures in the clay as the driving characteristic in his work. The shapes are natural with a sense of playfulness.

It makes sense then why Keiji would also take inspiration from this technique, but has been able to somehow craft his own style that edges on the side of being contemporary, which could partly come from Shigeyoshi’s wife, Yuriko, who makes fine celadon pieces as a juxtaposition to her husband’s pottery. Bright reds and oranges come from Keiji’s week long wood-firing adorn the the side of his pots. Some new works see the implementation of whites with spotting from the firing to add another element to his ever expanding range.

At his studio Keiji digs the soil by hand and mixes it himself to make the clay for his pots. All of the ceramics are crafted on a traditional kick wheel and are fired in a long process that requires concentration 24 hours a day and means his wife, Makiko, a talented bread maker and mother to Keiji’s son Toki, takes over throughout the day while Keiji tends to the kiln during the night. A process that takes a lot of time and care but leaves beautiful, natural markings on the exterior of the tableware.

Keiji is able to make rustic looking pots that are still modern, something rare to achieve considering the unpredictability of the processes that he goes through to make them. I was glad to spend a day with him so I could understand his work a little better. We hope you will also support his work that can now be found in our shop.


Bamboo Trees in the town of Hino in Shiga Prefecture.Wood collected for the next firing of Keiji Tanaka's pottery.
Beautiful nature in the town of Hino, home of Japanese potter Keiji Tanaka.
Keiji's kiln is  covered before he starts to pack it with new work. The kiln will be fired for a week.
Keiji Tanaka's wood-fired pottery sitting near his kiln.Keiji and his son Toki playing near his studio in the town of Hino in Shiga Prefecture.
Keiji and his son Toki playing near his studio in the town of Hino in Shiga Prefecture.
Various textures found in his pots and deep reds and oranes thanks to the high amount of iron found in the soil.
Pottery inside the studio of Keiji TanakaTalented Japanese potter Keiji Tanaka's ceramics inside his workshop.
Various textures and colours found in Keiji Tanaka’s pots thanks to the high amount of iron found in the soil.
Keiji Tanaka's kiln equipment in Hino, Shiga Prefecture.A photo of Japanese potter Keiji Tanaka's kiln.
This kiln will be packed with pottery and fired for a period of one week.Inside the kiln of Japanese potter Keiji Tanaka.
Keiji Tanaka opening his kiln that was built by him at his studio in Shiga Prefecture.
Keiji Tanaka opening his kiln that was built by him at his studio in Shiga Prefecture.
This kiln will be packed with pottery and fired for a period of one week.Inside the kiln of Japanese potter Keiji Tanaka.
Keiji Tanaka's pottery studio.A photo of Keiji Tanaka's kick wheel, pushing it by using his foot to make his works on the pottery wheel.
Shigeyoshi and Yuriko Morioka, two famous potters that Keiji Tanaka apprenticed under.
Keiji Tanaka's wood-fired pottery
A selection of Keiji Tanaka’s wood-fired pottery sitting inside his traditional Japanese home in Shiga Prefecture.
A selection of pottery available at OEN Shop handcrafted by Japanese potter Keiji Tanaka →