Unomi teabowl, 1966
8.1 x 7.9 cm
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Gift of Mrs. A.E. Deacon
Following his ceramic studies at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Shōji Hamada met British ceramist Bernard Leach. He spent three years (1920–1923) working with Leach in St. Ives, Cornwall, England, where they established the Leach Pottery. Hamada’s approach to ceramics—rooted in the Japanese folk tradition and combining natural, organic sensibilities—produced straightforward vessel forms, decorated quite simply with earthy glazes and loose, spontaneous brushwork. These three Japanese teabowls or unomi are characteristic of his work: solid, unassuming, and enlivened by passages of stylized calligraphic decoration. Hamada was an important mentor for the British studio pottery movement, and later in North America. Honoured with the designation of Living National Treasure in Japan in 1955, recognizing him as a keeper of Japanese culture, he continues to be seen as one of the crucial forerunners of the international studio pottery movement.