|Brand: Yohei Konishi
Yohei Konishi, yohen shudei teapot 310ml, Tokoname kyusu for Japanese/Chinese tea, wood box
Made by Yohei Konishi
Made in Japan
Size：Height 9.6cm * Length 12.2cm * Diameter 9.2cm
Package: Kiri(Paulownia) Wood Box
Taiwan, Korea, China - JPY 2610
Asia (exept Taiwan, Korea, China) - 3620
America District(USA, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, etc) - JPY 5910
Oceanea District(Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Fiji, Papua New Guinia, etc) - JPY 5910
Middle East District(Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Israel, etc )- JPY 5120
Europe District(France, England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Russia, etc) - JPY 5120
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Yōhei Konishi is indisputably one of the most innovative and technically skilled teapot artisans working today. No one has more fully explored the possibilities of the teapot as a genre, or pursued new challenges more tenaciously.
In 2008, Konishi was named an Intangible Cultural Property of Tokoname City, the most notable teapot-producing town in Japan. His pots incorporate wildly varying forms, techniques, and materials, all of which he has painstakingly tested, developed, and polished to the highest level. Konishi’s oeuvre contains, of course, a multitude of surprising, individualistic pieces, but even his simplest and most classic teapots boast an incomparably high quality that is immediately clear to the beholder. That quality is truly the mark of a master, an artisan who has polished his skills to the limit of possibility, whose prowess shines through in each piece that he creates.
Konishi was born in Tokoname City in 1941, into pottery royalty. His father, Konishi Yūsen, was the first in Japan to advance nerikomi pottery, wherein many different colors of clay are kneaded together, creating a piece with beautiful, sharp visual contrast. Konishi Yōhei got his start in the business during elementary school, when he would assist his father, and in doing so learned how to properly knead the clay for nerikomi pieces and work on the pottery wheel. He would later enter a technical high school for ceramics in Tokoname, and from there would move naturally to the center of the pottery world.
In artisan families, it is most common for the family’s oldest son to take eventually take on his father’s name, and in doing so carry on the family line. Konishi Yōhei, however, kept his own name, after making the bold decision to pursue his own craft and style. His younger brother succeeded his father in Yōhei’s place, becoming Konishi Yūsen the Second.
“I guess I’m just kind of an oddball,” laughs Yōhei.
After graduating from high school, Konishi began making teapots in his father’s nerikomi style, as well as pots in the highly traditional shudei style, which uses special red-brown clay, but his interests rapidly expanded. Before long, he began creating vases, incense burners, and other objets d’art, which he displayed in a wide variety of open art exhibitions. At the time, it was exceedingly rare for artisans in Tokoname to submit to such exhibitions, and even rarer for their submissions to be anything other than teapots. Konishi, however, found his works highly acclaimed, and soon found himself holding individual exhibitions in high-end department stores nationwide.
Still, as Konishi puts it, “teapots are my home,” and his particular interest in the genre shows in his work. Tokoname is most famous by far for the numerous shudei-style works produced there, but “what everyone else is making isn’t particularly interesting,” he says. And so, Konishi is forever experimenting and developing new techniques. Unlike most artists, he never lingers on one style for long, but rather is constantly seeking out new clay and new methods, and polishing them to the highest degree. For example, it is Konishi who made the first fired-black teapot in Tokoname, taking advantage of the fact that the red clay used in shudei pieces turns pitch-black upon a second firing. The technique has since become widely used across Japan.
Konishi is also the leading user of pit kilns, built into the earth on hillsides, in Tokoname. These kilns produce a beautifully haphazard surface texture on the pieces fired in them, as ash from the burning wood in the kiln falls back down onto the works. Though most Tokoname artisans today use modern gas or electric kilns, Konishi switched to the pit kiln early on.
“Gas and electric kilns are safer, more secure,” he says. “When you use a pit kiln, the chance for failure is much higher, and so most people avoid them. When I started using them, I was the only one, apart from the great Yamada Jōzan.”
Many of Konishi’s more recent works incorporate carved elements, which, despite his lack of specialized training, he produces as smoothly and cleanly as any professional engraver. “I learned during my early 20s,” he says. “I made quite a few carved pieces back then.” With that practice, it seems, he picked up carving with ease, adding it to his inexhaustible portfolio of techniques.
As this might suggest, Konishi’s dominant style has varied considerably during different times in his career. “To me,” he says, “making the same piece over and over again is next to impossible,” he says, and truly, each of his pieces is unique.
If a craftsman is a person who repeatedly makes and polishes the same object, and an artist is a person who constantly creates new ideas, concepts, and styles, “artist” is by far the more suitable term for Konishi. Konishi himself, however, remains humble: “A ceramics artist? I’m no artist. I’m an artisan, a craftsman. I’m just a simple potter,” he says.
Konishi’s true intentions, then, are impossible to guess, rejecting as he does the label of artist, and proudly claiming his status as a craftsman. He remains stoic and focused, earnestly considering the very core of what it means to create. Indeed, perhaps this is the proper attitude to have, given how frequently young creators with only a few exhibition appearances to their name claim the title “artist.” If that word has all but lost its meaning, to claim that one is a “craftsman” may in fact be a point of pride.
“Before you’re a craftsman,” adds Konishi, “you need a certain sense and knack for what you’re doing. I am certainly a craftsman with a sense for pottery.”
In his many statements, Konishi’s refrain seems to be that he is “an oddball.” The word may not be a bad fit: throughout his career, Konishi has been one step ahead of the other ceramics artisans of his era, producing surprising and extraordinary pieces. And after all, throughout the ages and regardless of field, artists who have made leaps beyond the common sensibility have been looked at as strange, to put it mildly. When that strangeness is recognized as genius, however, it gains wide appeal, and becomes the new norm. While Konishi labels himself as odd, he is constantly remaking and reshaping assumptions about what pottery can be. It will no doubt be thrilling to watch him continue.
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