Deeply rooted in the local community ”Ceramics, Sekisui Ito”

Deeply rooted in the local community
”Ceramics, Sekisui Ito”

Inheriting a name

”Sekisui Ito” is a ceramist’s name with 100 years of history since the first ”Sekisui Ito.” He’s known for producing ”Mumyoi-yaki” ceramics, which uses ”Mumyoi” clay found in the tunnels of Sado Gold Mine. Mumyoi has high iron content as it is found near vein of gold. Mumyoi ceramics is baked in very high temperature making it very hard and when you tap it, it rings in a metallic tone. We interviewed the fifth Sekisui Ito. He has been designated Important Intangible Cultural Property in 2003 for elevating the beauty of Mumyoi-yaki. His technique brings out the characteristics of the red clay by baking them in high temperature and by applying the flame in a certain way to give black coloring to the pieces.

Sending out messages from a provincial area

Nakata asks why Ito continues to work in this area, Sadogashima, Niigata. Ito answers slowly, ”Everything accumulated to Tokyo since the Meiji era. Aesthetic value is also decided in Tokyo. There are many artists and craftsmen outside of Tokyo but their work is received by Tokyo. Will the people from outside of Tokyo be able to compete in Tokyo with the center stage always in Tokyo? We may not have as much information compared to Tokyo, so the history, climate, raw material outside of Tokyo is important.” Something comes to Nakata’s mind. ”Yes, I think that is why I travel. I travel to actually see places, things, and meet people. It is the same for crops or sake.” All things of some value accumulate to big cities but its makers and the real value of raw material thrive in the place of their production.

Inheriting tradition and adding something new

Nakata was able to see not just the current but the past Sekisui Ito’s works. Even though they are all “Mumyoi-yaki,” they each have different characteristics from the first to the present Sekisui Ito. When Nakata points this out, Ito says, “Our job is to receive the essence from our ancestors and add our own originality to it. Just repeating what was passed on would give the pieces a feeling of lacking progress.

Staying current and staying half a step ahead of the times

He also told us that pottery is different from other art in that it does not deny the actual use of the objects. Nakata confessed “I’m actually the type of person who wants the “use”. If I see an art piece, I always think of how I would use that. Like how I would place this here or that would brighten up the room, etc. “In this trip I’m visiting a lot of different people, from artists, to craftsmen, farmers and restaurant owners. There are certain things I realized in the process.
As Nakata explained, Sekisui Ito said “Things like what I make, must be with the times. On the other hand, it should also be half a step ahead of the times. That’s the kind of work I do.
Pottery is something that’s been adopted in daily life since the ancient times by the Japanese people. It continues to charm us as we and still continue to feel the joy of possessing. There shall be the repetition of changes of the times, discovery and creation. We saw a glimpse of that fact during the conversation with Nakata.


Sekisui Ito
Sado-shi, Niigata