Having collaborated with Dai Ichi Arts Ltd. for over two decades, Kohara is a man apart, an individualist. Born in Shigaraki in 1954, Kohara is a self-taught master of the Shigaraki kilns, in the sense that he had no formal schooling in ceramic art, and he has apprenticed to no master. As one of the Six ancient kiln sites of Japan, Shigaraki today is home to hundreds of potters.
The landscape itself is an inspiration. The trip from Kyoto to Shigaraki valley unveils mountain after mountain clothed in lush greens ranging from the light spring green of a bamboo grove to the deep green of pine forests. Here and there are sparks of red and white flower blossoms.
But Kohara is no mountain hermit potter. He is an exuberant modernist, international in his tastes, and passionate about his many interests. His little red Peugeot sports car zips along to the music of Louis Armstrong and Judy Garland. He loves Miro’s paintings, admires baseball star Matsui, and relaxes by scuba diving. His favorite ceramic artist? “Sueharu Fukami....because he creates something I cannot achieve. It is my challenge.”
The celebrated dense, grainy clay of Shigaraki is an ideal medium for Kohara’s art, which combines freshness and spontaneity with a nod toward tradition. His glazes are simply wonderful - very melted, very flowing, with a muted, but impressive, color spectrum, in some pieces ranging from champagne to amber to seafoam green. The gentleness, almost prettiness, of his glazes form an unexpected and thoroughly satisfying contrast to his strong, muscular forms. His forms are always just a little bit bigger, a little bit longer, a little bit stronger than one would expect. A hanging vase (a form taken from bamboo prototypes) stretches 30 inches long. These vases are particularly difficult to make he says, because they must be drawn out of the kiln by means of a long metal pole. He notes that it is increasingly hard to handle the weight of the pole as he gets older. His two-tiered box is square and squat, very shibui (sober, quiet, refined), but with an underlying strength, almost machoquality. This is very self-assured work – spontaneous, direct, emotional – much like the artist himself, and the landscape he calls home.