Ikuhiko Shibata - Gifu, Japan

Shibata has created many public artworks in his 20 years of practice as a professional ceramist.

He marries traditional technique with modern sensitivities and is dedicated to energizing the younger generation of Japan's ceramic artists.

He established the Hanzogama craft center where he manages full-scale ceramic production.

Photo Gallery

Gifu City

Gifu Prefecture

Tajimi City (Japanese only)

You can email Ikuhiko Shibata at shibata@claycolorfire.org

Text of Shibata's Public Slide Lecture
July 12, 2003
University of Cincinnati School of Art

Mino is the old name for Gifu Prefecture in Japan. This is where I live.

The capital of Gifu Prefecture is Gifu City. Gifu City is Cincinnati's Sister City.

Gifu was the home of Oda Nobunaga. He was one of three samurai who united Japan in the late 1500s. This is his castle on Mount Kinkazan near Gifu City.

Gifu City is famous for its paper goods. Gifu makes traditional Japanese umbrellas and lanterns and also the modern lamps of sculptor Isamu Noguchi.

Gifu is on the Nagara River. A popular tourist attraction in Gifu is ukai, night fishing using trained cormorant birds.

This is my city, Tajimi, in the Eastern part of Gifu Prefecture. Tajimi people have made pottery since ancient times. The style of pottery is called Minoyaki or Mino pottery.

The most famous types of Minoyaki are Shino, Oribe and Kizeto. Because of these, the old name of Mino is still well-known. Potters in Gifu still study and work in these three styles.

The Oribe style of Minoyaki began with Furuta Oribe, a samurai of the Momoyama era, about 400 years ago. We know Oribe yaki by its green iron oxide glaze, its asymmetrical form, its simple decoration and its stylistic freedom.

Modern oribe yaki is popular in Japan for kaiseki, a style of cooking that celebrates seasonal foods that are beautifully prepared and presented. We Japanese think that Oribe yaki makes food look more delicious. After we eat the food, the Oribe yaki is a feast for our eyes.

Artists before Furuta Oribe tried their best to make perfect round forms. Furuta Oribe broke with that tradition. He made unsymmetrical ceramics like these. This looks easy, but it is very very difficult to do well.

Oribe, Shino and Kiseto were all products of the Momoyama era. They were only made for about fifty years, so works of that era are very rare today.

After World War Two, the master potter Arakawa Toyozou researched the old methods of making Shino yaki and taught them to his student, Katou Kouzou. Katou still makes Shino yaki in the old style. He throws his work on a hand-turned wheel. He fires his pottery in a pine-fired hillside kiln.

Katou learned the Shino technique from Arakawa and now he passes it along to his own followers. I'm one of them, and now I'd like to show you some of my own work.

These are some of my tools, texture samples and an early sketch of my work for the Friendship Pavilion here in Cincinnati.

Sometimes I throw a round pot then cut out sections to make dishes. I get five dishes like this from a pot.

I add decoration made from clay rope to the edges of the dishes. I may add texture to plates by pressing a perforated sheet of lead into the clay. First I dust the clay with baking powder so it doesnít stick to the lead sheet when I remove it. The baking powder burns off in the kiln. It doesn't change the color of the clay.

I also use different sizes and shapes of firebrick to add surface texture to the clay. Again, the baking powder keeps the clay from sticking to the brick. Here are examples of trays that I decorated using these techniques, ready to be fired.

And here they are after I fired them in my wood-fired kiln.

Here is a set of five nested bowls. These are very popular with my Japanese customers because they don't waste space in small Japanese homes. We call nested ware like this "Ireko no utsuwa"

I made these vases on the wheel. I cut a piece out of the small vase, then pushed it back into and a little past its original position.

These cats are inspired by sculptures I saw in pictures of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The chair belongs to a king in an imaginary story. In my mind, the cats are waiting for a king who's gone away.

Nobody knows where he went. Nobody knows when he'll be back.

He has been away for a long time. While he was away, his kingdom fell apart. Slowly it was covered by sand, like the pyramids of Egypt.

Some day I want to do these pieces in full scale as part of a larger installation piece.

Jizou is a bodhisattva. Thatís a kind of Buddhist saint who has become enlightened but stays on earth to help others. Jizou protects children. We pray to Jizou for safe travel or to grant favors. You can see Jizou figures everywhere in Japan.

This is my electric kiln. It's a little unusual because the front and the top open up. This makes it easier for me to load large pieces.

These are pieces I created before I built my wood kiln.

Thank you for coming today. I'll be happy to talk with you more during the Open Studio and at the picnic.

Ikuhiku Shibata's Technical Notes


trace 1 for each piece numbering.

2 for cutting out each building form to transfer tracing

Because my mosaic consists of so many pieces, they are very small and there are many different shapes. So, each building and others have to keep form every time.

Each building is cut out as one form from a clay slab

Next, add surface texture to it using firebrick, shells, and other tools after dusting the clay with baking powder so it doesn't stick to the texture tools. The baking powder burns off in the kiln. It doesn't change the color of the clay.


Use sponges to apply glazes to add color to the buildings and other forms. I use sponges to apply the glazes because the buildings represented in my design are old, so they show their age; their colors are uneven and a bit worn-looking, not fresh and new. I like old buildings. I needed a way to apply color to the buildings with an uneven, rough touch, so I used sponges.


With hundreds of pieces to keep track of, I had to pay close attention to where everything went in the kiln and make sure not to lose or scatter the pieces. When moving the pieces of the mosaic from wooden boards where I laid them out for transport, to the shelves of the kiln, I had to be very careful that everything stayed in its place.

For the larger forms, I needed to devise a way to break them into 2 or 3 sections, then transfer the dividing lines to tracing paper.


Lay the fired pieces out on mesh, allowing space for grout and paying attention grout space balance.

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