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Ceramic Artist Profile:  Kawai Toru & Kawai Akiteru
Mingei Style Pottery

works by Kawai Toru

green tea sets
sake flasks & cups
plates & chargers
tea ceremony bowls
vases & tsubo



works by Kawai Akiteru

green tea sets
sake flasks & cups
plates & chargers


Family Name:  Kawai

Given Name:  Tōru

Reading:  Kawai Tōru, Kawai Touru

Year of Birth:  1941

Style:  stoneware pottery influenced by the mingei (folk art) movement and works by Kawai Kanjiro

Studio Location:  Higashiyama District, Kyoto

Kiln:  wood burning noborigama, gas kiln


In the late 1920's in Japan, a small group of artists, lead by Yanagi Soetsu, started the mingei, or "folk art', movement.  It was a reaction to what they saw as the increasing threat of industrialization upon traditional, handmade crafts.  For them, as modern society enjoyed the fruits of industry and economies of scale, it lost something in its soul as its eye for beauty in the simplest of utensils - a cup, a chair, or a basket - became more and more blinded by low cost and standardization.

So Yanagi and his lifelong companions, including potters Bernard Leach, Hamada Shoji, and Kawai Kanjiro, sought to keep the craftsman spirit alive by producing everyday objects which satisfied the practical as well as the spiritual needs of life.  The works they made were functional, expressive, yet unassuming.  As a matter of principal, mingei wares were hardly ever signed.

Kawai Kanjiro (1890-1966) was one of the principal figures within the mingei movement.  Born in Yasugi, he was trained at the ceramics division of Tokyo's Higher Polytechnic Institute and briefly at the Kyoto Municipal Institute of Ceramics.  He was a glazing master, and his diligence and tremendous focus is renowned - performing 10,000 glazing experiments while still just a student.


With equal amounts of engineering skill and artistic sensibility (he was also a poet, calligrapher and sculptor), Kawai created works of extraordinary creativity and rustic charm.  He had a penchant for combining modern methods of manufacture with traditional Japanese and European design, and he pioneered a technique called doro-hakeme (lit. "mud slip brushing") which simulates brushwork on clay and allows for quick but aesthetically pleasing decoration.

Thanks to the contribution of the mingei movement, a great number of Japanese handcrafts were preserved and are still thriving today.  In the realm of ceramics, Kawai Kanjiro's works are considered as those of a true genius.  His legacy extends far and wide, and a small handful of his descendants continue producing pottery to this day.

Among them is his grandnephew, Kawai Toru.

1941 Born as the first son of ceramic artist Kawai Takeichi.
1962 Begins apprenticing under his father.
1977 Father & son exhibition, Fukuya Dept. Store, Hiroshima.

Begins solo exhibitions from this time on.

1983 to present Holds exhibitions at Takashimaya Dept. Store Galleries in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Yonago and Okayama.

Holds annual exhibitions at these venues from this time on.

2000 Solo exhibition at Gallery Tsubasa, Toyama Pref. | view
2001 First solo exhibition at the Takashimaya Dept. Store Gallery, Nagoya (JR Station)

Cobalt Blue (Gosu) Vase
with Iron Drip Details
by Kawai Toru

Tetsu-yu Iron Glazed
Tsubo Jar
by Kawai Toru

Kawai Toru was born in 1941 and entered the world of ceramic making in 1962 as an apprentice to his father Kawai Takeichi.  He was the last disciple to receive instruction and inspiration from Kawai Kanjiro, assisting the master with large communal firings at his noborigama (climbing kiln) located on Kyoto's Gojo-zaka street.


Like many artists who choose to carry the banner of a family legacy, Kawai Toru was faced with the difficult balancing act of preserving tradition and, at the same time, establishing his own artistic identity.  He has done so by taking the spirit of mingei and certain elements from Kawai Kanjiro's inspired pottery and then melding them into forms that are distinctly modern and leaning, at times, to the flamboyant.

His choice of glazing tends toward basic color schemes, and one can see the late master's expressionism in his cobalt blue gosu vase (at left) with iron drip details.  As well, his fresh water jars and tea bowls, adorned with floral motifs and roundels, speak of the European influence upon the mingei movement.

But what truly distinguishes Kawai Toru's work from that of his predecessors' is his preference for clean lines and modular shapes.  He excels in mentori, a forming technique where leather-hard clay is carved with facets.  Like a master gem cutter, he makes every cut with a steady hand, sharp eye and keen sense of maintaining a pot's balance and proportion.  The complex geometry that rules in his larger pieces shows a level of technical skill unseen in the works of former mingei masters.  Upwardly twisting facets, swirling vortexes, and flared rims are the trademarks of his craft.



Kawai Akiteru is the son of Kawai Toru and the newest member to the family of mingei potters.  Raised in a household steeped in the mingei aesthetic and a mere stone's throw away from Kawai Kanjro's house (now a museum), it seemed only natural that he would pick up the trade himself.


Shinsha (Cinnabar) Tea Set
by Kawai Akiteru

In 2000, he began apprenticing under his father and has already shown a talent for adopting certain techniques and refining them into a style of his own.  Unlike his father, however, the younger Kawai prefers more fluid decorative elements and undulating forms.  Yet, with so much talent and influence (from both the past and present) surrounding him, a constant evolution in his own rendition of mingei is almost assured.


Kawai Kanjiro would have been proud to see his work redefined by this talented and devoted father-and-son team.



Born as the first son of ceramic artist Kawai Toru, Higashiyama Dist., Kyoto  


Graduates from Kyoto Municipal Institute of Ceramics.


Graduates from Kyoto Municipal Institute of Ceramics, advanced degree in industrial ceramic research.


Begins apprenticeship under father.


Osaka Daimaru Dept. Store Gallery group exhibition | view






Kawai Takeichi &
Kawai Toru
Kawai Akiteru
2008 Osaka
Group Exhibition









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