A look inside the studio of Japanese potter Katsufumi Baba in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Feature on Japanese Potter Katsufumi Baba

About Katsufumi Baba

Katsufumi Baba is a Japanese potter who resides in Kurume, a city in Fukuoka Prefecture. He’s been interested in ceramics his whole life and after majoring in law he decided to follow his passion and become a full-time potter.

So in 1995 he travelled to France and went through Europe for two years to see and learn from European potters. Once he had returned he spent two years as an apprentice to a local potter in Japan, and in 2003 set up a small studio in his home town of Kurume, where he has been creating his own pieces ever since.

Photography: Hiromi Isikawa

Introduction

Katsufumi is interested in creating functional beauty, items that you can use over and over for ones entire life. Aesthetically his pottery has little decoration and are very traditional in form, using a simple colour palette of black, white, and a combination of the two. It’s only when you get up-close you can see the subtle changes in the glaze that are created during the high firing in his kiln.

Our attraction to him as a potter was the simplicity in the techniques that he uses, as well as the rustic beauty found in the pieces themselves. His work always gives me a particularly distinct feeling, picking them up makes me think of nature itself, an appreciation for perfect harmony which shows his skill for balancing asymmetry with touch.

As you can see from the photos here, his works have small “imperfections” scattered throughout, often the walls are not perfectly straight or feature little marks on the surface. But these really speak to the unpredictability of the whole process and the material itself. For me, this unpredictability should remind us that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

Hopefully you like his humble pots and will flick through these photos here to see inside his workshop and how he goes about making these pieces. A selection of works are available to purchase in the shop. Oh yeah, and his cute cat Tanpopo (meaning Dandelion) also features here. Enjoy.

Katsufumi Baba on the pottery wheel, here he shapes and forms his pieces from clay.Katsufumi Baba on the pottery wheel, here he shapes and forms his pieces from clay.
Katsufumi Baba on the pottery wheel, here he shapes and forms his pieces from clay.
He shapes natural looking forms on the wheel like this teapot out of stoneware clay.
He shapes natural looking forms on the wheel like this teapot made out of stoneware clay.
Making the lid for a teapot on the wheel by opening up the clay using his hands.
Katsufumi making the lid for a teapot on the wheel by opening up the clay to make a small dish shape which will be trimmed later.
Katsufumi Baba shaping the pot on the wheel using clay.
After he crafts the spout of the teapot, trying to get it thin enough by using his little finger.After he crafts the spout of the teapot, trying to get it thin enough by using his little finger.
After he crafts the spout of the teapot, trying to get it thin enough by using his little finger.
To get a tall form he lifts his hands up and inwards on the wheel.
Using a small wooden tool to shape the inner curve of the vessel.
Katsufumi uses a small wooden tool to shape the inner curve of the vessel.
Next he cuts the vessel off of the wheel using a piece of string.
Next he cuts the vessel off of the wheel using a piece of string.
Here are all the elements made on the wheel, a lid, a spout, handle and the main body.
Here are all the elements made on the wheel, a lid, a spout, handle, and the main body.
Katsufumi on the wheel, making sure the lid size of the teapot is correct.A selection of wooden tools that uses to get the correct lid size for each pot.
A selection of wooden tools that uses to get the correct lid size for each pot.
Tools inside potter Katsufumi Baba's studio.
Shaping a bowl on the wheel with Katsufumi Baba
These teapots have been dipped in glaze and are ready for firing, a beautiful matte finish.
These teapots have been dipped in glaze and are ready for firing, a beautiful matte finish.
Tall Teapot by Katsufumi Baba.
Tall Teapot by Katsufumi Baba, we sell a similar one in the Hakeme Finish.
Katsufumi continues with one of his round teapots, here he trims the excess clay off the main body.
Katsufumi continues with one of his round teapots, here he trims the excess clay off the main body.
A small piece of clay is attached to the lid, making it easy to hold and lift up.
A small piece of clay is attached to the lid, making it easy to hold and lift.
Piercing holes in the body where the spout will be attached, so that the liquid can travel through and sieve out any tea leaves.
Piercing holes in the body where the spout will be attached, so that the liquid can travel through and sieve out any tea leaves.
Attaching the spout to the main body, using his finger to carefully sculpt the desired shape.
Attaching the spout to the main body, using his finger to carefully sculpt the desired shape.
The spout is cut with a knife to get enough of an opening for the liquid to pour through.
The spout is cut with a knife to get enough of an opening for the liquid to run through.
Three stages of a teapot, showing the vessel thrown from the wheel, the piece once it's been dried and all the elements attached, finally it's been glazed and finished.
Three stages of a teapot, showing the vessel thrown from the wheel, the piece once it’s been dried, trimmed and all the elements attached, finally a glazed and finished version.
Lastly, Katsufumi draws out the shape of a handle for a teapot out of wood.
Lastly, Katsufumi draws out the shape of a handle from wood, this will be attached to the teapot.
Cutting some wood on the bandsaw.He sands down the wood to get the desired elongated form.
Katsufumi shapes the wood using a sanding machine, making an elongated wooden handle for a teapot.
The final handle, here he pays attention to how the handle is held and to create an aesthetically pleasing shape.
The final handle, here he pays attention to how the handle is held by the user and to create an aesthetically pleasing shape.
Katsufumi opening up the kiln to view his pottery.Katsufumi looking inside the kiln.
Some Hakeme pieces fired inside the kiln.
Some Hakeme pieces fired inside the kiln, including the Hakeme Dish Plate and Hakeme Rice Bowl.
Katsufumi pulling out the pieces of pottery from the kiln.
Katsufumi's cat, Dandelion, hiding behind the kiln where it's still warm after cooling down.
Katsufumi’s cat, Dandelion, hiding behind the kiln where it’s still warm after cooling down.
Some black metallic-looking pieces fresh of out the kiln.Back in the studio he shapes the end of the handle to fit nicely in to the teapot.
Back in the studio he shapes the end of the handle to fit nicely in to the teapot.
Once he has attached the handle he uses a copper pin to secure it, here he is grinding it down so it lays flush with the ceramic.
Once he has attached the handle he uses a copper pin to secure it, here he is grinding it down so it lays flush with the ceramic.
he finished teapot in all its glory, this can be found in OEN Shop.
The finished teapot in all its glory, this can be found in OEN shop.