Leach Pottery Residency - April 2015

Japanese potter Yusuke Matsubayashi was born in 1981 to a family whose history of potting goes back to the sixteenth century. He is the eldest son of Hosai Matsubayashi, the fifteenth general master of the Asahi Pottery in the famed town of Uji, Kyoto, Japan’s oldest centre for tea cultivation. The pottery specializes in tea ceremony vessels and has been in continuous production for over four hundred years, through fifteen generations of the Matsubayashi family.

Yusuke trained under his father at the Asahi Pottery, exhibiting his work in Japan as well as further afield in China, Taiwan, France and the USA. His first trip to London in 2013 included a visit to the British Museum to see a display of pots by his great, great uncle Tsurunosuke Matsubayashi, on show alongside the work of Kenkichi Tomimoto, Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada. Shortly after establishing the Leach Pottery in 1920, Leach and Hamada invited Tsurunosuke to come to St Ives to build a triple-chambered kiln in the traditional Japanese manner. It was the first Japanese climbing kiln in the western world, and remained in service until the 1970s. 

Inspired by his visit to the British Museum, his family’s historic connection to St Ives pottery and personal diaries written by Tsurunosuke during his time in St Ives, Yusuke became keen to define the relationship between his own work and that currently in production at the Leach Pottery. “My usual work is very different from work created in the traditional Leach style. But during my residency here at the Pottery I spent time thinking about the Leach ethos, and about Tsurunosuke’s contribution to the relationship between Eastern and Western ceramics. I would be pleased if my time here would serve to highlight the importance of his work.”

Echoing techniques seen in the Tsurunosuke collection at the British Museum, Yusuke has combined grey Cornish and red Japanese clays to create a collection of over 40 tea vessels symbolic of a century of mutual influence between British and Japanese pottery. He has experimented with local materials, old Leach glaze recipes and traditional Japanese techniques to create thickly textured layers of slips and glazes which enhance the simple beauty of these uniquely conceived works. 

A selection of these tea vessels will be available for sale in the Leach Pottery shop from Saturday 25th April. The remaining works will be exhibited at the Japanese Embassy, London in 2016 - dates to be confirmed.