ITO Tadashi | Open form
ITO Tadashi 伊藤正(1952- )
Open form 炻鉢, 2005
19” x 7.125” x 8.125”, D48.2 x 18 x 20.6cm
With Signed Wood Box
1952 Born in Iwate
1979 Studied Ceramics in Mashiko
1985 Built his own kiln in Iwate
1995 Moved his kiln
2007 Touching Stone Gallery, Santa Fe, USA
2008 The Musee Tomo Prize, Second Contemporary Ceramics for the Tea Ceremony, Musee Tomo Museum, Tokyo
2009 Touching Stone Gallery, Santa Fe, USA
2010 Third Contemporary Ceramics for the Tea Ceremony, Musee Tomo Museum, Tokyo
2011 Touching Stone Gallery, Santa Fe, USA
Quintessence* - Contemporary Japanese Ceramic Masterworks of Tadashi Ito 伊藤 正
One sunny day in 1976, a young Japanese geology student named Tadashi Ito arrived outside the village of Bodh Gaya in India. Little did he know his life was about to be changed forever. Bodh Gaya is the most sacred of all Buddhist sites. It was here that the Buddha attained enlightenment while meditating under the Bodhi Tree some 2500 years ago. On this particularly warm day, Ito was glad to see a temple which offered some relief from the scorching sun. As he sat in the shade looking out to the open, he noticed a young girl working in the field. The girl’s brightly colored sari stood out against the parched landscape. She was tending an ox which was pulling a heavy water irrigation wheel. Once in a while, the girl would bend down to pick up a wildflower that grew along the irrigation ditch. She would turn the flower in her hands and bring it to her nose, admiring it as if it were a beautiful gem. At that moment, Ito realized he was looking at his own destiny acted out by the ox and the girl. By the end of the journey, he knew what he wanted for his life. He promised he would not muddle through life mindlessly like a beast of burden. He would live a simple life, taking time to appreciate and share the beauty in this world. He decided to become an artist.
Ito was born in 1952 in Kamaishi, a quaint fishing village in Iwate Prefecture in Tohoku in northern Japan. The area was isolated from the large metropolis in central Japan by rugged mountains covered with dense forests. To the east, a shoreline dotted with sandy beaches and dramatic rock formations opened to the Pacific Ocean. As a child, Ito spent long afternoons walking by the sea, combing the beaches for unusual seashells washed up by the tides, marveling at their intricate designs. That experience provided life-long inspirations for the artist.
After returning from India to Japan, Ito sought training in pottery making. He went to Mashiko, a pottery center made famous by the late Mingei (folk art) master Shoji Hamada. Ito, however, had no interest in Mingei. As a creative artist, he was not excited about repeating what had been done. Instead, he was inspired by the ground-breaking work of another Mashiko genius, the late Shoji Kamoda. Unlike Hamada, who put much effort into refining existing Mingei, Kamoda strove for new ideas and innovations to open uncharted territories. In 1985, Ito returned to Iwate Prefecture where Kamoda worked in his later years. He built a kiln in Tono, a beautiful ancient farming town rich in history and folklore. Besides providing an excellent clay, the quiet secluded environment freed Ito from trendy commercial influences, allowing him to pursue his own artistic vision to produce some of the most original work in contemporary Japanese ceramics. Ten years later, Ito and his wife bought a 300 year old farm house in a nearby town, they built a studio and kiln there to create some of the most original works seen in contemporary Japanese ceramics.
Ito's work is strongly influenced by nature's forms, especially the graceful curves and intricate lines in seashells. He explained, "When I peer inside these shells, I feel I have glimpsed some hidden secrets of the universe, some quintessence of life." Capturing those fleeting magical moments of wonder has been the gist and motivation of Ito's work. He pays particular attention to the treatment of the openings, which are often graceful and subtle, and serve as focal points of the works. Perhaps the most remarkable quality of Ito’s work is the way it engages the viewer. By taking nature’s forms and paring them to their bare essence, the viewer is forced to regard the work with a high level of consciousness.
Tadashi Ito wood carving
Simple woodcarving accentuates the
rustic setting of Tadashi Ito's studio
Ito’s knowledge in geology turns out to be invaluable for his career as a ceramist. Many of his works have a distinctive gray surface marked with white speckles and silvery beads. Ito digs his own clay that has a high content of feldspar, silica and iron. Upon firing, the impurities produce glistering bead-like extrusions unique to his work. Using a technique pioneered by Shoji Kamoda, he coats the clay body with kaolin, then partially removes it with a wire brush after firing to produce the speckled surface. Other works are finished in a rich reddish brown color, achieved by using an unusual heat-resistant local red clay as a slip.
Throughout his life, Ito has kept an enviably simple and noble lifestyle by maintaining a self-imposed discipline of not yielding to commercial pressure. He works deliberately, charting his own course at his own pace, producing highly original works for a limited number of exhibitions. Despite his low-key approach, his work has won critical acclaim.
In 2007, Ito launched his America debut with the first of three solo exhibitions in Touching Stone Gallery. The following year, he shared the prestigious Musee Tomo Prize in Contemporary Ceramics for the Tea Ceremony with four other leading Japanese ceramists - Masahiro Maeda, Kichizaemon Raku, Ryuichi Kakurezaki, Yuho Kaneshige. In 2010, Ito's work was chosen again for the Musee Tomo Prize exhibition in Musee Tomo Museum in Tokyo. The current show includes two works (Sea Drop Nos.1 & 2) that were parts of that museum exhibit.