28 June 2024

Concept to Clay: The Tailored Tapestry of Hissan Pottery's Shigaraki Ware

Leading Hissan Pottery, Ogawa Kimio incorporates Shigaraki's local, all-natural materials into each piece of his tableware to capture the beauty nature has to offer. Ogawa is the fifth-generation head of Hissan Pottery and is dedicated to crafting pieces that fulfill his customers' expectations, leveraging his expertise and experience as a Shigaraki craftsperson, leaving no room for compromise. He strives for a delicate balance, seeking to foster a greater appreciation for authentic, locally sourced craftsmanship with the sustainability of his studio as a thriving business. Step into Hissan Pottery's studio, and celebrate their creativity that's carefully honed from the earth's treasures.


  • About Shigaraki Ware
  • The Collaborative Creativity of Hissan Pottery
  • Original Glaze
  • The Nuance of Wood Firing
  • Sustainable Craftsmanship and the Path Forward

About Shigaraki Ware

Recognized as one of Japan's six ancient kilns, or Rokkoyo, Shigaraki ware boasts a rich history that dates back to the Nara period (710 CE–794 CE). Following the rise of chado, the way of tea, it earned the admiration of numerous tea masters for its profound embodiment of the wabi-sabi aesthetic. By the Edo period (1603 CE–1868 CE), the production of Shigaraki ware expanded to include a variety of everyday items, such as sake bottles and donabe pots. Shigaraki ware earned recognition as a traditional craft in 1976.

A defining characteristic of Shigaraki ware is its high fire resistance and coarse clay quality. Through the process of oxidation and reduction during firing, pieces take on the stunning colors of light beige, pink, and reddish-brown. Natural glazes and a charred effect gives the surface an organic feel, resulting in soft and warm expressions distinct to Shigaraki ware.

The Collaborative Creativity of Hissan Pottery

Under Ogawa Kimio's guidance, a team of five craftspeople at Hissan Pottery expertly utilize the local region's natural resources to create tableware that showcases the inherent beauty of Shigaraki ware. Catering primarily to restaurateurs in and outside of Japan, and various stores, Ogawa's process is deeply rooted in understanding his clients' visions, translating specific desired ambiances, textures, and hues into reality. Ogawa believes, "Even without the commonality of a spoken language, as professionals, I find a shared ground with master chefs and creators. And it's in these moments that the most fascinating pieces come to life." His collaborations span from traditional Japanese kappo restaurants to international Michelin-starred establishments and renowned French champagne makers, demonstrating the wide appeal and adaptability of his work.

Original Glaze

The making of Ogawa’s tableware starts with custom-blended clay, carefully shaped to meet each client's specific needs. Although Ogawa's craftsmanship caters primarily to professional settings, where large orders are common, each piece is meticulously handcrafted using traditional molding and hand-turning techniques. A vast number of molds fill the shelves inside their studio.

Ogawa's passion for embodying his creative visions in clay places emphasis not only on shape and form but also on color. He understands that colors can dramatically change based on the clay's characteristics and texture.

One can see Ogawa’s deep passion in how he creates his colors and how they are expressed in each piece. In the new Malibu series, a vibrant turquoise adorns his plates. He reflects, “When I was young, there weren't many pieces in this color available in the market. Only a select few artisans made flower vases and some dinnerware items. Even today, our kiln's original Turkish glaze remains a rare color in Japan.”

The Turkish glaze of Hissan Pottery is hand-mixed following a formula passed down through generations. To further enhance the visual intrigue of this stunning color, the stoneware surface is masterfully textured, avoiding the uniformity of a matte glaze. This results in unique variations in color intensity for each piece, beautifully recreating the blue shades of the sea.

The Nuance of Wood Firing

Ogawa also deeply values the firing process, choosing wood over gas for his kiln. This choice, at times, results in variations in outcome though he aims for as much uniformity as possible.

Ogawa explains, “After countless experiments with the kiln’s oxygen levels and temperatures, I’ve come to intuitively feel what yields the best results,” emphasizing the deep understanding required for natural glazing. Firing the kiln about 400 times a year has become a part of his life through sheer repetition.

Sustainable Craftsmanship and the Path Forward

Ogawa’s commitment to sustainable practices, including the use of natural materials and traditional kiln techniques, ensures that the legacy of Shigaraki's artistry continues. He also fosters a work environment that supports his team's well-being, with a focus on work-life balance which is a rarity in this industry. Facing the challenges of the pottery industry head-on, Ogawa hopes to preserve the craft's authenticity while innovating for the future, making sure Shigaraki ware remains a sustainable legacy.

Ogawa crafts pottery daily without compromise, striving to recreate the visions requested by professional chefs and shops, a challenge he undertakes with a global perspective. According to Ogawa, “Since Japanese cuisine was designated as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013, the boundaries between global and Japanese culinary traditions have increasingly blurred. This phenomenon is mirrored in the world of ceramics, where the distinctions between Western and Japanese dinnerware are gradually fading.”

Ogawa's dedication to sharing the timeless allure of Shigaraki ware is unwavering. As Hissan Pottery continues to craft professional-use tableware, it also hopes to make their pieces more accessible to a wider audience. They champion the art of Shigaraki ware as a sustainable craft, with a strong dedication to leaving a legacy of authenticity and creativity for future generations to cherish.

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