Tsuyoshi Uenaka was born in 1982 into the Inauemon Pottery family one of the oldest potteries of Tambayaki. The Inauemon pottery’s history stretches back 280 years and Tsuyoshi is the 11th consecutive generation of potter in his family. He studied pottery at the Ceramic Art Institute in Kyoto and then apprenticed under his father. Tsuyoshi is also well accomplished in the tea ceremony and calligraphy. These skill sets overlap and influence one another in a manner that enhances Tsuyoshi’s work as a potter. Tamba potters take great pride in their pottery’s reputation for combining functionality and beauty. Tsuyoshi too endeavors to combine functionality and aesthetic beauty in his work while linking the traditions of his craft to modern forms and designs and sensibilities. In making his pots he still employs the traditional techniques and the simple tools of his ancestors. Tsuyoshi is continually exhibiting his work in galleries and department stores all over Japan. He has regular exhibits in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe and has also held exhibitions of his work in Paris. This is Tsuyoshi’s first exhibition in the United States.
Tambayaki, with its origins reaching back as far as the end of the Heian Era or early Kamakura Period (1180-1230), is one of the six ancient pottery centers of Japan along with Seto, Tokoname, Shigaraki, Bizen, and Echizen.
It is located in Hyogo Prefecture about an hour from both Osaka and Kobe in the village of Konda-cho not far from the castle town of Sasayama. The village is in a narrow valley that runs north to south for about a mile or a mile and a half and has a small stream running through it. The valley floor is cultivated with rice and the mountains rise a lush green on either side. Packed closely together along the lower slopes of these mountains are the nearly 60 potteries that continue the traditions of producing “Tambayaki”.
The pottery of Tamba is said to have an elegant simplicity and an understated beauty that stems from its calm simple lines. The hues of Tambayaki are drawn forth from the iron bearing clay by the flames of the traditional Anagama and the Noborigama (kilns). They range from stunning red to earthen oranges and browns and finally even turn to black. Melted ash that lands on the pottery during the firing process adds its own glassy green accent to the work. The red flashing with the licks of flames seared into the clay is now the most well known of pottery from Tamba.
For hundreds of years the pottery of Tamba was primarily made for use in the commoner’s everyday life. (The elite of Japanese society looked to Kyoto for pottery of appropriate refinement and beauty for their class.) It was not until the early 1900’s, a few decades after the feudal society of Edo Japan ended, that the beauty of Tamba Pottery was recognized and introduced to the world by Mr. Muneyoshi Yanagi the founder of the Japan Folk Crafts Museum.
The famous English potter Bernard Leach, a friend and contemporary of Mr. Yanagi visited Tamba on numerous occasions. Janet Darnell an American writer, who later became Mrs. Leach, also spent time in Tamba studying the local techniques and making pottery.
Through the years the potters of Tamba have formed the clay to feed their families and serve their society. Their craft, their art has developed and evolved over the last 800 years and that tradition continues year after year.