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Tomimoto Kenkichi

(Japanese 1886- 1963)

Born in 1886, Tomimoto embarked on his ceramic journey in an unconventional manner, initially studying at the Tokyo Fine Arts University. It was during a transformative year-long stay in London that he encountered the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement, particularly the philosophy of William Morris. Inspired by Morris's vision of bringing beauty and utility to everyday objects, Tomimoto sought to integrate affordability with aesthetic excellence in his ceramic creations.

Returning to Japan, Tomimoto established himself as a master potter, travelling the country to collaborate with local workshops and infuse traditional ceramic forms with his distinctive designs. His collaborations led to the production of affordable yet exquisitely crafted tableware, reflecting his unwavering commitment to democratising good design.

Beyond his artistic pursuits, Tomimoto's impact extended to education. In 1950, he founded the ceramics department at Kyoto City University of Arts, where he instilled in his students the importance of individuality, originality, and the confluence of forms and patterns. His teachings revolutionised ceramic education, shaping the next generation of ceramic artists in Japan. Tomimoto's dedication and technical prowess earned him recognition as a Living National Treasure in 1955, underscoring his profound influence on Japanese ceramics.

Throughout his lifetime, Tomimoto's work garnered international acclaim, especially in the West, where he became a major figure in the Mingei folk-art movement. His three-year visit to England, during which he spent time with Bernard Leach, further enriched his artistic perspective and contributed to his global recognition. In 1957, Tomimoto began collaborating with the Yasaka Kogei workshop to create the Tomisen line, featuring lively and charming tableware pieces that bore his signature stamp. His commitment to offering thoughtfully designed, handmade objects for everyday use epitomised his belief in the power of ceramics to enrich daily life.

In the words of Bernard Leach, Tomimoto's intuitive decisions in crafting each piece reflected his mastery and innate understanding of the medium. His pottery became a living expression of his artistic vision, earning him acclaim both at home and abroad. Despite his passing in 1963, Tomimoto's legacy lives on, with his influence continuing to inspire ceramic artists worldwide. His level of technique, attention to detail, and innovative spirit underscore his place as a master of ceramic art and a true artist.

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A porcelain dish made by Tomimoto Kenkichi sold at auction by Maak Contemporary Ceramics



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