Just the Facts


Primary forming method
coil building

Primary firing temperature
2246°F (1230°C)

Favorite surface treatment

Favorite tools
my hands

Favorite playlist

a wide entrance


Vostok, the shared studio where I work, is located in Kamigyo-ku, a section of Kyoto where old, historic streetscapes still remain. The area is famous as the place where Nishijin-ori textiles, a traditional craft product of Kyoto, have been made since long ago, and was once home to large numbers of craftspeople. My studio is a former Nishijin-ori workshop and an example of the machiya style of architecture that is common in Kyoto. Because they have narrow entrances and stretch deep into city blocks, these traditional wooden townhouses are sometimes called “unagi no nedoko,” or “eel beds.” Architecture of this kind is also often likened to the characteristic personality of Kyotoites, who clearly distinguish between honne (personal feelings) and tatemae (the accepted view), given that for both, “the face presented is just a part of the whole, with personal feelings hidden deep within.” Rails are embedded in the long passageway in our building, along which a trolley runs to make it easier for people using the space at the back to get goods in and out. This roughly 861-square-foot (80-square-meter) space is partitioned into 7 rooms, including 4 studios, a common space that can be used for events and making large works, a shared kitchen, and a lounge. Though applications are not currently being accepted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are also the most basic of sleeping arrangements and other facilities enabling Vostok to be used as a short-term artist-in-residence space. Renovations and other work on the building was started in 2018 by five friends and former schoolmates with the cooperation of Basement Kyoto, a group that restores machiya to basic functioning condition and leases them to artists as studios.

At present, four artists working in the fields of ceramics, video, painting, and photography share the studio, stimulating each other as we engage in our respective practices. My space is at the very back and is connected to an outdoor workspace where I have installed a 10kW electric kiln. Because the building next door is a temple, I can hear the chanting of sutras early in the morning and smell incense, which makes for a pleasant environment. Each individual’s space is very small, at around 129 square feet (12 square meters), but my small studio is where I do almost all the work on the pieces that go into the kiln, from shaping to glazing. I think the minimal space helps me to concentrate on my own work; however, because I often make large ceramic sculptures the size of a human body, I sometimes feel cramped in this space. At times like this, I use the above-mentioned common space, the existence of which has enabled me to continue making large pieces. Once they have dried, I carefully pack up the sculptures and transport them by truck to the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Shiga. At the park, there are several types of kilns that members of the public can rent, the largest being a 56-square-foot (5.2-square-meter) gas-fired kiln. When making large works, I often rent the facilities at the park to carry out the processes other than shaping, e.g. bisque firing, glazing, and glaze firing. It takes around 45 minutes to get there from the studio by car, so it is not all that far. I also rent warehouses in two locations, one close to the studio and one on the outskirts of Kyoto, where I store many of my works.

Paying Dues (and Bills)

I completed an MFA in ceramics at Kyoto City University of Arts before establishing my current practice in Kyoto. Partly because many nihonga painters, ceramic artists, and other artists and craftspeople have lived there from long ago, Kyoto is sympathetic to such people. There are four art universities in the city, which also provide employment for artists. After finishing graduate school, I worked for around three years at my alma mater as a part-time instructor. These days, I am mainly in charge of ceramic classes at nursery schools, in addition to which I work four days a week at my studio. I usually leave home for the studio at around 8am. It takes about 20 minutes by foot, but I often come up with ideas for work during the time spent walking to Vostok


At present, I mostly exhibit my work at the ARTCOURT Gallery, a commercial gallery in Osaka. They deal not only with contemporary artists, but also with artists who are expanding the craft media into new territory. Because my practice is not limited to the framework of traditional crafts, the gallery is supportive of my activities. I am also considering exhibiting overseas. Because of social media (I use Instagram and Facebook for promoting my work and activities), it is now possible to connect with people all over the world, but ultimately, I want viewers to see my work and experience my performances not just via computer screens, but also in real life. 

Photo: Masahito Yamamoto.


Initially, in running this shared studio, I wanted to venture to work with people expressing themselves not through ceramics like me, but rather other media. Using the space with fellow ceramic artists might have been rational in terms of not having to be concerned about things like dust and being able to share facilities; however, I gave priority to working in an environment that I thought would stimulate my own practice and thinking.

Photo: Takeru Koroda, courtesy of ARTCOURT Gallery. Photo: Takeru Koroda.

Many artists are leaving the city centers and establishing studios in large spaces on the outskirts. But I started using this studio in my mid 20s, and my thinking at the time was that I wanted to work in a place from which I could access the city easily and be stimulated by the outside world as opposed to staying cooped up in my studio working on my own. The city of Kyoto has wonderful art, other museums, and great architecture, and is home to many creative people. By going to exhibition openings after working in my studio, holding events there, and collaborating with other artists, I have been able to establish many connections. Though the material I work with is clay, in the last few years I have conducted other activities that straddle the boundary between craft and contemporary art such as incorporating into my work physical performances that imbue the pieces with breath or voices. One could say that through the creative environment in this studio and exchanges with the people around me, I have arrived at my current practice and way of thinking, which are not confined to the realm of ceramics. 

Young artists with limited financial resources must choose what to prioritize when it comes to their work environment. In my case, I feel that working in a shared studio in the center of Kyoto at the start of my career laid the foundation for my making it on my own as an artist. I am now in my 30s, and in order to delve deeply into my own practice going forward, too, I think it is probably about time I considered working in a large studio on the outskirts of the city. Given the various experiences and connections I have gained at this studio, I am confident I can continue working on my own.

Photo: Takeru Koroda.Photo: Takeru Koroda.

Before the pandemic, in addition to working in my studio in Kyoto, I also routinely traveled overseas. I have participated in several artist-in-residence programs, including the European Ceramic Work Centre in the Netherlands, Le Maupas A.I.R. in France, and Creative Residency Arita in Japan. Fortunately, because ceramics is a material/technique that exists all over the world, there are artist-in-residence programs in various locations. I travel to kilns and towns around the world where ceramics are popular and carry out research on the regions and countries while staying there, and then create work based on this research. Ceramics once connected the world as gifts presented to important people and trade goods, and sometimes influenced economics and politics, and for this reason provided insights into power relationships among countries, intentions hidden in motifs and forms, and changing values. As for the future, I want to continue these activities as my life work and eventually present all the pieces I have created at the various residencies in a single exhibition.

Most Important Lesson

It is possible to treat a studio not just as a creative space, but also as a place to engage with the outside world more actively. In order for young artists, myself included, to continue our activities, it is important that we gradually find creative spaces that suit us, while thinking about what we want to prioritize most of all and exploring various possibilities each step along the way.

Instagram: @saijoakane

English translation by Miki Pamela Associates. Cooperated by ARTCOURT Gallery. 
Topics: Ceramic Artists