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Akio Nukaga and Friends at Heath Ceramics, San Francisco

The Japanese master potter showcases his new pieces alongside wood and fabric works by fellow artists

by Julie Wolfson in Culture on 11 July 2014

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The bond between heritage California ceramics company Heath and Japanese master potter Akio Nukaga spans across the ocean and celebrates the connection between artists who work in clay. This relationship is reflected in the show "Akio Nukaga and Friends," opening today at Heath San Francisco, where the artist will be showing vessels with new shapes he has been developing.

Nukaga’s work has been shown at Heath before, after he was introduced to the company by Heath LA studio director Adam Silverman. Silverman first saw Nukaga’s work at Mashiko's Starnet space. At that initial meeting, Silverman was inspired by Nukaga’s expert technique and craftsmanship and began an ongoing exchange of artistic ideas that lead to planning exhibits of their works.

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Nukaga crafts vases, pitchers, bowls, cups and containers that merge craft with design at the highest level. Nukaga's pieces will be shown alongside work by fellow artists, including Hideki Takayama and Motoaki Takahashi. The warm woods and smooth finish of Takayama’s elegant carved sculptures and the colorful patterns of Takahashi’s hand-dyed tenugui cloths compliment Nukaga’s pottery—altogether telling a story of traditional Japanese techniques with contemporary aesthetic. The artist is eager for the show but tells CH, "My works are incomplete during the exhibition. Those are completed by users."

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Nukaga thrives on working with his hands and evolving the forms he makes. When asked about how he approached making the pieces for his current show, Nukaga shares that “I love throwing and am always looking for new ideas about form while throwing. This time, I developed some new forms made by combining a cup and two balls. This is my version of the ancient styles from Japan and Korea." During the exhibition, Nukaga's white glazed pitchers, layered vases and pots will be on view with black and red glazed bowls and cups. Always working to create new shapes and experiment with glazes, Nukaga continues his exploration of red glaze and considers those new bowls to be some of his favorites.

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Reflecting the importance of the relationship with Heath, the artist cites his time in California as inspirational for creating new work. "I think that we share a common way of thinking about life and living, and that shared approach allows me to connect with people in San Francisco even if we have very different backgrounds,” explains Nukaga. “My lifestyle is organic, though not perfectly so. I think I share that with good friends in San Francisco. It's exciting for me to encounter new people and have new experiences there and my new friends give me encouragement."

"Akio Nukaga and Friends" opens at Heath Ceramics, San Francisco (2900 18th Street) today and will be open through 8 August.

Images Heath Ceramics

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