Are you familiar with the term, yokai ? If you are a fan of manga or anime, you probably know that a number of popular characters are inspired by yokai motifs. Yokai are folklore spirits which sometimes play pranks on people. They may give you a shock, but for Japanese people, they are not something to be afraid of or disliked - in fact, you get used to having them around! Ms. Kawada has selected the yokai she finds most appealing for her creations.
Clay may have different regional characteristics, but the production process behind ceramic art is very similar all over the world. Clay is basically made of powdered rock and sand: the artistic process consists of clay forming, bisque firing, pattern sketching, glazing, firing, painting and then firing. The works in Mami Kawada’s yokai series are all formed and molded by hand. Forming clay by hand is a fundamental technique, but it takes skill and experience to create these relatively large, three dimensional art pieces. That is why, if clay pieces are fired without being properly formed and molded, air pockets inside the clay cause them to explode, or crack and break. The works in the yokai series are all made with hollow insides.
*Different raw materials are used for pottery and porcelain. The basic material for pottery is clay, whereas porcelain uses a type of kaolin clay called toseki. Pottery is fired at a lower temperature than porcelain. It feels almost warm to the touch and makes a dull sound when struck. Porcelain is white in color, feels smooth and makes a crisp metallic noise when struck. Ms. Kawada uses pottery clay for her work.
The charm of Ms. Kawada’s work lies in the way she gives decorative expression to her creations through her skillful use of chisel and glaze. Slip trailing is one of the decorative techniques she is particularly good at. This is a technique whereby slurry (clay mixed with water) and glaze are put in a dropper bottle, and patterns are painted by gently squeezing out the mixture. It is a decorative technique which is similar to painting a message on a cake. The balance between patterns and painted pictures lies at the heart of Ms. Kawada’s creations. Her amazing skill in painting classical Japanese motifs is what gives the yokai series its distinctive character.
Can you see that the clay is hollow inside? The artist hollows out the clay as she forms it to ensure it does not break when it is fired.
Icchin slip trailing. The artist uses a drop bottle with glaze to paint a wave crest pattern, a classical Japanese artistic motif.
The artist maintains a stock of different shades of glaze which she has mixed herself, so that she can use a variety of different colors in her pictures and patterns.