Ceramic Artist Profile

Kawai Takéichi

ceramic artist Kawai Takeichi's name in Japanese

In the late 1920's in Japan, a small group of artists started the mingei, or "folk craft" movement.  It was a reaction to what they saw as the increasing threat of industrialization upon traditional, handmade crafts.  For them, modern society's eye for beauty in simple utensils for daily life was becoming blinded by low cost and standardization.

So a group of potters, including Bernard Leach, Hamada Shōji, and Kawai Kanjirō, 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 Kanjirō (1890-1966) is considered one of the principal figures within the mingei movement.  With equal amounts of engineering skill and artistic sensibility, Kawai created works of extraordinary creativity and rustic charm.  He had a penchant for combining modern methods of manufacture with traditional Japanese design, pioneering a technique called doro-hakémé, or "mud slip brushing."

Thanks to the contribution of the mingei movement, a great number of Japanese handcrafts, including baskets, furniture and cast iron ware, were preserved and are still thriving today.  In the realm of ceramics, Kawai Kanjirō is known as one of the most innovative Japanese potters of the 20th century.  Among the handful of artists fortunate to have studied under him at length, one in particular stands out.

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Kawai Takéichi


Born in Yasugi, Shimané Prefecture


Begins apprenticing under Kawai Kanjirō (uncle) in Kyoto


Serves as assistant to Bernard Leach at Kawai Kiln, Gojōzaka, Kyoto


Studies ceramic making in China for one year


Joins the National Creative Painting Association


Becomes an independent artist


Visits Australia and New Zealand.  Holds private exhibition and pottery classes in Wellington.
Kanjirō-Hirotsugu-Takéichi Trio Exhibition, Kyoto


Holds 50th year memorial exhibitions at Takashimaya Galleries in Tokyo, Osaka & Kyoto


Dies at the age of 82


Kawai Takéichi was born during the late Meiji era in 1908.  He was the nephew of Kawai Kanjirō and, at the age of 18, began apprenticing under his legendary uncle in 1926.  The two were very close.  As Kawai Kanjirō had only a daughter in his family, the younger Kawai became looked upon as a son.  Collaboration between the two artists lasted over 40 years until the elder Kawai’s death in 1966.

Kawai Takéichi, who was playfully nicknamed “Bu’ichi” (a misreading of his given name), learned from his uncle how to master a number of different glazes, including gosu (cobalt), tetsu-yū (iron) and shinsha-yū (copper).  He also excelled at neriagé - a technique where two clays of contrasting color are marbled to form intricate designs within the claybody.

Earlier in his career, Kawai worked reverently to preserve the aesthetics that grew from his uncle's vision of mingei, and his pots from this era are sometimes mistaken for those of his master – having that distinctive “Kawai school” flavor.  Obeying a principle set by the founding fathers of mingei, Kawai never signed the footring of his works, which may explain this misidentification.

Bu’ichi, however, had a special gift for painting and, when he wasn’t at the potter’s wheel, could be found outdoors, contently drawing images of various flora with his fudé brush in one hand and numerous sheets of paper in the other - images still preserved to this day.  In 1942, he also spent a year studying ceramic making in China, and these two influences certainly helped guide him on a different creative tangent later in his prolific career.

Unlike his uncle’s often wildly expressive forms, Kawai Takéichi gravitated toward more reserved and structured vessels, sometimes molded, which served as canvases for his own clay creations.  The floral motifs on his tsubo jars display a whimsical, painterly quality quite unlike those of any mingei master before or after him.


Works from the later period of Kawai Takéichi's career were wood-fired in a four-chambered noborigama climbing kiln which he established with his son in 1978 in a rural area of Kaméoka city (Kyoto Prefecture) where wood-burning kilns are still permitted.  The kiln was christened Nantan-gama, or Nantan Kiln.

image of kiln firing

Potter's Insignia

Kawai Takéichi's works are not signed around the footring, following his uncle's belief that, "My work itself is my best signature."